The Value of Open Space: A Geographic Case Study of Floodplain Buyouts in Lexington, KY
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This mixed-methods case study critically analyzes how floodplain property acquisition (buyouts) impacts an urban environment, Lexington, Kentucky, at the neighborhood scale while considering the role of individual residents, structural controls, and intervening organizations in land use decision making. Although local officials implement buyouts, the funding is primarily from the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Therefore, in floodplain buyouts, the reopening of urban space is enabled by federal structural drivers, primarily FEMA, but is repurposed as a cultural landscape constructed and produced by the dialectical interaction of individuals and institutions. By highlighting the ways in which these entities interact and the differing values they ascribe to post-buyout landscapes, my research explores how residents, local government and stakeholders perceive and produce buyout landscapes. In Lexington, buyout properties transitioned from empty lots to tacit and explicit reflections of the sociopolitical landscape surrounding them. Enabled by federal funds, but left largely to their own devices, local residents adopted uses, ascribed values and produced their own land use norms for each site.