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Vacancy Development

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | June 2, 2022
Vacant Property Map Picture

Identifying our actual supply can help satisfy regional demand.

Emporia Main Street worked with Simon Stewart, an Emporia State University analytics intern to develop a research project. The proposed project would identify both commercial and residential vacant buildings and vacant lots inside the city limits of Emporia. Development of the project proposal required partnerships with the City of Emporia, Lyon County GIS, and local businesses that independently engaged some types of vacant property identification.
Why is vacant property identification important?

  1. Consumer spending capacity in the Emporia area does not always align well with new buildouts. There is a segment of our local economy that can afford to custom build their own home. Other strata within or local population can afford to purchase new construction formed through a developer. Some people prefer apartment style living (including downtown lofts). There is a segment of the population that would prefer to own a home, but their budget aligns with the purchase of an older home. To use another product analogy: some people buy new vehicles, while some people prefer (or can afford) used vehicles. Identifying vacancies can uncover more affordable properties for a segment of our population.
  2. Infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain. Creating density allows us to reuse existing infrastructure, and that reuse allows our community to allocate tax dollars more efficiently. In the year 2000 the Emporia population was 26,800 with a significantly smaller city area than we currently have. Today, our estimated population is 24,300. Fewer people with more surface area is the definition of sprawl, and the additional infrastructure required for sprawl based development, with a lower population means either taxes for the support of infrastructure increase or the infrastructure dilapidates. Identifying vacant property and/or lots allows for density which can counter negative impacts of sprawl.
  3. Travel and proximity are important. The Flint Hills Regional Council conducted a study indicating that people in this area spend 36% more than the national average on fuel. The hit to disposable income incurred by local consumers impacts the amount of dollars available to support local businesses and local jobs. Density within a community helps alleviate fuel expenses (even short trips, taken repetitively, add up).

What was the method of determining vacancy?

  1. Water usage– We worked with the City of Emporia to determine water usage per parcel. For properties that used very little to no water (water levels below life sustaining levels), we increased the probability of vacancy.
  2. Private sector identification– Some local businesses attempt to saturate the market by selecting consumers per occupied household. We were able to work with one such business as an algorithm check for vacant property identification.
  3. Spot check– Physically interacting with a portion of the identified vacancies to ensure that they were indeed vacant.
  4. Value differential– For vacant lots, we identified properties with a “land value” and a property value set at $0. The differential value indicates a parcel of land with no property.

Any vacancy identification is a snapshot in time. Some properties may become vacant after an identification, and some vacant properties are occupied after their initial identification.
What can we do with the data collected?
Ideally we can use vacancy information to encourage the sale of marketable properties, the development of vacant lots, the entry of property into the City of Emporia land bank for more substantial developments, or the tear-down/redevelopment of properties that are beyond saving.
How can we encourage the use of vacant properties?
Vacancies hurt the community in numerous ways (CLICK HERE).
Private sector entities can reach out to owners of properties to execute purchase agreements or partner to redevelop areas. The community can choose to enhance and enforce chronically vacant property ordinances, or enact minimum maintenance codes.
How do we access the vacancy data?
If you are a member of Emporia Main Street with the desire and capability to sell usable property, redevelop existing property, or develop lots, simply contact Emporia Main Street and we can supply the vacancy information.
Emporia Main Street continues to work to provide local businesses opportunities to improve our community and region. Identification of vacant properties and lots can provide a pathway to profitability for local developers and real estate agents while helping solve our local housing and commercial property issues.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.