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While many observers would view empty lots and boarded-up buildings as eyesores, Cristina Garmendia and Alexander Kapur (both MPP 2013) along with their colleague Andrew Kieve, see them as opportunities waiting to happen. With their new venture, OpportunitySpace, Garmendia, Kapur and Kieve have created an open source technology platform that connects citizens, businesses and governments to help optimize use of underutilized land and buildings.
“Everyone has a vacant lot or shuttered building they walk past on a regular basis – and many of them are public properties,” Kapur says. “This venture was motivated by our feelings of frustration with waste, misaligned resources, and the pace of change.”
Garmendia argues that every day “a vacant lot stays vacant or nothing happens for a building- that has real costs” which include maintenance, security, policing, and social and political costs. OpportunitySpace, she says, will serve as a “structured channel for for-profits, community organizations, and individuals to engage government property owners.”
“It leverages data, analyses, and online economies,” Garmendia continues. “The platform fuses key public property data currently locked in various agency and jurisdiction data islands into a consolidated, streamlined inventory. It provides government decision-makers with clean visualizations and analytics needed to monitor public property usage trends and to identify potential opportunities for efficiencies or creative end use relating to under-utilized or unused assets.”
For cash-strapped governments, OpportunitySpace may prove to be the ideal solution at a critical time.
“We aspire for OpportunitySpace to be the consolidated source for government-owned properties that will enable governments large and small to advertise their vacant or under-utilized listings to the broadest mix of potential investors- from individuals to corporations,” she says.
The seeds for OpportunitySpace were first sown as Garmendia and Kapur worked together with their client, the Louisville Metro Government (KY), on their Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE). They also credit the convening power of Harvard Kennedy School as playing a key role in their creation.
“The Kennedy School brings together people from very diverse backgrounds who share an interest in public service,” they explain. “We would not have met otherwise.”
OpportunitySpace recently received the Public Sector Innovation Award at the Harvard College Innovation Challenge. Garmendia and Kapur have also been named as finalists for the 2013 Echoing Green Fellowship.
The three founders of OpportunitySpace (from L-to-R): Alexander Kapur; Cristina Garmendia; and Andrew Kieve.
“We aspire for OpportunitySpace to be the consolidated source for government-owned properties that will enable governments large and small to advertise their vacant or under-utilized listings to the broadest mix of potential investors- from individuals to corporations,” Garmendia says.