Prof. Rigolon of the University of Utah publishes “Greening Hypothesis”

Illustration of large lot-, owner-, and block-level units of analysis and corresponding variable sets used in the study.

Research increasingly shows that greening activity can spur contagious or imitative behavior among nearby neighbors within residential landscapes. Krusky et al. (2015) examined this phenomenon in the context of vacant lots and found support for a “greening hypothesis” that residential yards near vacant lots that were converted to community gardens exhibited higher levels of care than yards near untended vacant lots. Although such activity implies a temporal, causal relationship, research to date has only tested the spatial dimension of greening through correlational measures of proximity assessed at one point in time.

We extend this work by analyzing vacant lot greening as a function of time, space, scale of analysis, and other factors. We studied residential property owners (N = 321) who purchased nearby city-owned vacant lots through the Chicago Large Lot Program. Improvements made in the condition and care of large lots in the year after purchase were positively related to the proximity, condition and care of the individual’s previously owned property, and signs of use and care of the lot before purchase (blotting).

We also examined whether block-level indicators of care and disorder were associated with improvements made to lots purchased on the block. We found few associations but discovered these same block-level indicators of care and disorder more strongly predicted the percent of large lots sold on that block, suggesting that greening activity may be bidirectional. These findings expand understanding of the dynamics of vacant lot stewardship and have implications for building more robust theories of urban greening.

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