Boarded rowhouses

In some areas of Baltimore, Maryland, the streets are lined with abandoned, boarded-up houses.

Lisa McNeilly, the city’s director of sustainability, says decades of population decline are partly to blame.

“And beyond that, in part due to the disinvestment in many of our predominately African-American neighborhoods, we have a deteriorated housing stock,” she says, “and that means that we’ve had to demolish some of those buildings, and so we have vacant lots.”

So Baltimore is converting some of those lots into usable green space. As part of its Adopt a Lot program, residents clean and maintain hundreds of vacant lots. Some are now urban gardens or open spaces where communities can gather.

The goal is to help revitalize some of the city’s underserved neighborhoods.

But McNeilly says adding green space and planting trees can also help cool neighborhoods. That’s increasingly important as Baltimore summers get hotter.

“We know that certainly for large green areas you can see that the temperatures are lower,” she says, “and that any place where you have tree canopy is an improvement.”

So transforming vacant lots can improve residents’ quality of life even as the climate warms.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.