This is a past Pitch NOLA opportunity

PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress

Present your solution to transform vacant lots in New Orleans

Deadline: Oct. 22nd, 2012; 11:59pm

Do you dream of owning your own fruit orchard, performance space, art installation, green house, dog park, outdoor gym, outdoor science lab, goat farm, herb garden, or something else awesome? Choose a vacant lot, win it for free, and receive cash prizes to make your idea a reality! Apply today.

PitchNOLA: Lots of Progress is a social innovation “elevator pitch” competition open to individuals and teams with an idea that transforms vacant lots for community and environmental benefit. NORA, Propeller, Tulane, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation Metropolitan Opportunities Fund are challenging the New Orleans community to come up with creative and sustainable uses of vacant lots that improve the community. Choose an available vacant lot from our selection of 49 properties and win $2,000-$5,000 in cash prizes to make your pitch a reality.

First Place: $5,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation
Second Place: $3,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation
Third Place: $2,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation

*NOTE: All winners will need to factor in closing costs for their lot(s) of choice. Closing costs are 10% of property value or a minimum of $775. (See details in application.)

Entrants need only submit a short online proposal with a preliminary site plan for initial consideration. Ten semi-finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to a large audience and panel of judges during PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress on November 15, 2012. 2012 “celebrity judges” are Chef John Besh, NORA CEO Jeff Hebert, and Dr. Maurice Cox from Tulane City Center.

The event is OPEN TO ALL community members in the Greater New Orleans area. Audience members can register online.

Apply Online


  • Open to businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, individuals (any age and residency), and teams of individuals with or without an incorporated business.

  • Income-generating activities are allowed if the items are harvested/manufactured on-site and sold off-premises; however, no on-site commercial activity is allowed (i.e. farmer’s markets, produce stands, etc.)

  • No habitable facilities (i.e. structures containing any of the following: permanent bathrooms, kitchens, living quarters, etc.)

  • Temporary structures that can be easily removed are eligible (i.e. fences, sheds, lockable storage facilities, temporary bathrooms, tool stands, greenhouses, hoophouses, water systems, aquaponics systems, easily removable art installations, plants, play/gym equipment etc.)

  • Eligibility requirements exist because vacant lots are zoned for residential use. Please refer to the FAQ for further explanation.


Summary of the Idea

Describe how your idea will utilize vacant lots and how your idea will benefit the community or the environment. Applicants who make it to the final round will have their paragraph in the event press release and posted on Propeller’s Website. (50 words)

Use of Vacant Lots

Clearly identify how you will utilize the vacant lots. Include a site plan as part of your idea (see #10). All non-vertical development is acceptable if permitting and zoning requirements have been met. If you have questions regarding eligibility, please contact Julia Stewart at Please note that applicants who will use the parcels for farming, growing of crops or other similar uses will required to conduct soil testing. Please see FAQ below for specific instructions on soil testing. (200 words)

Community or Environmental Benefit

Describe how your idea benefits the surrounding community or the environment (i.e. water mitigation, healthy food access, public health, quality of life, etc.). If beneficial environmental and community statistics are available, please include. (300 words)

Priority Lots

Identify up to 10 vacant lots from the online map, in order of preference. If your idea requires multiple lots, identify which group of lots is necessary for your project’s success. (100 words)

Implementation Plan

Describe how you will implement your project in Year 1. Include site activities, outcomes after Year 1, etc. If you will need utility access at the site, please state this. For more information on utilities, please refer to the FAQ. Show us that you have thought through how you will implement your project. [NOTE: Selected entries will be responsible for installing and paying for all utilities. Please refer to the FAQ for the very simple process. You will not need to have begun the process, but we would like you to include this in your implementation plan.] (300 words)


Describe how your proposed idea will potentially be more effective or efficient at utilizing vacant lots and addressing a social or environmental challenge than what currently exists. Describe what will be different about the community or environment because of your solution. If there are similar programs, you can mention how you differentiate yourself from other programs. (200 words)

Financial Sustainability

Tell us how much it will cost to implement your solution in its first year and give us a breakdown of what the costs will be. Tell us how your solution will be paid for in the first year and by whom. Please include expenses, such as insurance and utilities. For more information on typical insurance and utility costs, please refer to the FAQ. (200 words)


Convince us that you and your teammates have what it takes to make your social venture a reality. You may include information on your credentials, your commitment, or any pilot successes or milestones that have been achieved up until this point. (200 words)


Please provide a description of you and/or your team. Convey any information you is relevant to your project proposal. Please include the resumes of you and your team members. Do not be concerned if formatting within the online application is lost. (no word limit)

Site Plan

Include a site plan that includes any planned structures for the site. Site plans can be hand-drawn not to scale. We will not judge site plans on sophistication of the drawings. Please upload site plans as part of the application as a pdf or jpeg document (saved as “Site Plan_FirstNameLastName“). Examples of site plans.


Judging Criteria

Throughout all rounds of the event, judges will assess ideas according to these criteria:

1) Potential Social or Environmental Impact (20%):

  • Potential for tangible and measurable impact to the beneficiary population or the environment
  • Level of innovation of concept and model that differentiates the idea from what currently exists

2) Financial or Organizational Sustainability (50%):

  • Provide a clear plan for long-term organizational or financial sustainability
  • If project utilizes volunteers, please include plans for how recurring volunteers will continue to maintain the property
  • If project will generate revenue, please include information on revenue generation and financial sustainability

3) Viability (30%):

  • The potential for the idea to be implemented
  • The potential for the idea to have a concrete impact
  • The potential for the idea to be financially and/or organizationally sustainable

About the 2012 Judges

Chef John Besh
Chef John Besh is a TV personality, philanthropist, restaurateur and author. His nine critically acclaimed restaurants in the New Orleans area are dedicated to sharing the diversity of culinary riches in southern Louisiana. Besh’s talent and drive have earned him continual kudos: Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America,” and he won the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006. The John Besh Foundation, founded in 2011, works to protect and preserve the culinary heritage and foodways of New Orleans via initiatives such as the Chefs Move! culinary school scholarship and microloans for local farmers. Chef Besh is married and has four sons.

Jeff Hebert
Jeff Hebert is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority where he is responsible for redevelopment projects for the City of New Orleans and the successful disposition of over 3,000 properties that were acquired through the state’s housing recovery program. Jeff found his way back home in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita serving as the Director of Community Planning for the Louisiana Recovery Authority where he was tasked with working with local governments throughout the state to develop recovery plans, including the Unified New Orleans Plan. Jeff has received a Bachelors in Urban Design & Architecture Studies from NYU and a Masters of City Planning from MIT. Jeff is currently a board member of the Young Leadership Council, Second Harvest Food Bank, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the United Way Vision Council.

Dr. Maurice Cox
Professor Cox is the Director of the Tulane City Center, former mayor of Charlottesville, and a nationally respected community designer and leader of the public interest design movement. He is co-founder of the national SEED (Social, Economic, Environmental, Design) Network, and also served as design director of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC from 2007-2010. He has received national acclaim for his ability to incorporate active citizen participation into the design process while achieving the highest quality of design excellence, leading Fast Company business magazine to name him one of America’s “20 Masters of Design” for his practice of “democratic design.”


The event will take place in two rounds:

*Round I: *The first round of the event will be based on a written proposal, which must be submitted via online application by October 22, 2012. Proposals will be scored by a committee of business leaders, academic faculty, and community members with experience and expertise in community revitalization, blight remediation, and social and environmental impact organizations. A maximum of 10 semi-finalists will be selected and notified by Oct. 27, 2012. Semi-finalists are required to attend the Pitch Workshop (see below).

Pitch Workshop (for semi-finalists): For semi-finalists, participating in a pitch workshop to receive feedback on the planned pitch and three Powerpoint slides is a requirement of pitching in the final PitchNOLA event. The pitch workshop will take place on November 5, 2012 from 5:30pm-8:30pm, Tulane University, Freeman Auditorium. The three slides accompanying the pitch must be submitted to Julia Stewart no later than November 3, 2012. We will provide guidance prior to the workshop on how to develop your slides and pitches.

*Round II: *PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress! The second round of the event will be at PitchNOLA 2012 on November 15, 2012. Semi-finalists will have three minutes to pitch their ideas to the “celebrity judges“ and audience members. Following the presentations, the panel of three judges will ask finalists questions, and during the event, the judges will select the First, Second, and Third Place entries in front of the live audience.


Semi-finalists will compete for vacant lots awarded by a panel of judges.

First Place: $5,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation

Second Place: $3,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation

Third Place: $2,000 for a vacant lot(s) of your choice and project implementation

*NOTE: All winners will need to factor in closing costs for their lot(s) of choice. All winners selected through judging panel will execute a standard NORA purchase agreement which will require additional documentation to finalize. The closing costs of the selected property will be the larger amount between 10% of the appraised value or $775 for closing costs. If a property is valued below $7,750, the applicant will pay $775. If the property is valued above $7,750, the applicant will pay 10% of the appraised property value.

Audience Participation

Audience members will play a key role in this event. Audience members will be provided with feedback cards on which they can provide constructive criticism as well as ideas on funding, people to connect with and anything else related to the idea.

To participate in PitchNOLA 2012 as an audience member, please register online. The event will be held on November 15, 2012 from 6:30pm-8:30pm, Propeller Incubator, 4035 Washington Ave. (Note: PitchNOLA 2012: Community Solutions will be held on November 14, 2012 from 6:30pm-8:30pm, Tulane University, Freeman Auditorium).

For more information, contact Julia Stewart with questions, and/or comments.

Key Dates

  • Wed., September 26th, 5:30-7:30pm

    New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), 1409 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd 70113: PitchNOLA: Lots of Progress Information Session with Q&A

  • October 11, 2012, 5:30-7:30pm

    Site-styling help session from Urban Land Institute architect volunteers. 643 Magazine St. (corner of Girod and Magazine). RSVP required by Oct. 4th. Please email Stephanie Boh directly at with team name and site addresses.

  • October 22, 2012, 11:59pm CST

    Deadline for online applications

  • October 27, 2012: 10 PitchNOLA

    Lots of Progress semi-finalists announced

  • November 3, 2012

    PitchNOLA Powerpoint slides due to Julia Stewart at Propeller

  • November 5, 2012

    Pitch workshop for ten finalists, Tulane University, Freeman Auditorium

  • November 15, 2012, 6:30pm-8:30pm

    PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress final event before live audience of 200+ community members

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the selected proposal receive more than one lot?

Yes. If multiple lots are vital to the success of the project, NORA will allow the purchase and transfer of multiple properties.

How many selected proposals will receive vacant lots?

Up to 3 selected entrants may enter negotiations with NORA for a purchase agreement for property.

Where can I see a map of the available vacant lots?

BatchGeo map of the available vacant lots

Will I have the opportunity to purchase the lot if I am selected?

Yes, the applicant should expect to enter into a Purchase Agreement to own the lot. The cash prizes will cover all expenses associated with purchasing the property.

If so, how will this happen?

If applicable, the winner will enter into a purchase agreement with NORA to own the lot. Properties will not be leased for this event. Please note that the cash prizes will go towards covering closing costs associated with the properties awarded.

How long am I committed to this project?

Your proposal will be monitored up to five (5) years. You are required to maintain the property and follow all city ordinances during that time. NORA will also include a resale restriction on the property for five (5) years.

After five (5) years, you will no longer be required to follow the original guidelines of the competition. However, we hope you are committed to the long-term success of your project and the City of New Orleans.

What happens after 5 years? Would it be possible for the PitchNOLA winners to then build structures on the lots they received as part of the competition?

After 5 years, the compliance period concludes. While the project will not be required to be on site, the owner will still be held to all local and state laws regarding maintenance and taxes. So while we cannot prevent someone from building a permanent structure (i.e. a house) after 5 years, we hope successful projects will last longer than the minimum requirement.

If I win PitchNOLA 2012: Lots of Progress, when can I expect to receive the lot(s) to begin my project?

NORA will work as expediently as possible once all necessary documentation is provided by the selected proposer. Required documentation is listed below.

What are the sizes of each individual lot?

Each vacant lot’s size can easily be looked up on the NOLA Assessor’s website. The web address is Click on “Search Records” and enter in the property address. We also recommend visiting the actual lot before submitting your proposal. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any difficulty with this.

Will I have to pay property taxes? What are typical property taxes on a vacant lot?

Yes, you will have to pay property taxes. For purposes of this application, you can estimate the property taxes of each lot at $150/year.

Property taxes vary on each property, depending on the assessor’s calculations; you can find the assessed value at Property taxes of the featured properties are typically below $100/year. You can find the exact value by clicking on “Search Records” then “Search by Location,” enter the address, click on highlighted address. On the new page that opens up with a photo of New Orleans at the top, go to the Value Information box and click on the grey button “Tax Information” at the right of the box. This will take you to a City of New Orleans page-look at “Tax or Lien” for the annual property tax rate. Nonprofit organizations can apply for property tax-exemption for these properties.

Please explain the property value and pricing.

First, Second, and Third-place winners will use their cash prize to pay closing costs on their requested lots. Closing costs are the larger amount between the appraised value or the $775 closing costs. For example, if a property’s 10% appraised value is $4,500, that is all the applicant will pay. If a property is valued at $250, an applicant will need to pay $775, the property value included. So, $250 for the property and an additional $525.

What additional documentation will I need to supply?

NORA will require, at least, the following:

a. Insurance for the property.

i. Proof of General Liability is required, call an insurance agency for more information. Parkway Partners is a community resource that provides some of these services: 504.620.2224.

b. Proper zoning and permitting requirements: The following are permitted uses under Single Family Residential Districts. Please describe and cite the closest match

i. 4.1.3.‚ Permitted Uses. The following uses of land are authorized as permitted uses within the RS-1 Single-Family Residential District, except that timeshare buildings and transient vacation rentals are prohibited:

1. Farming, including the usual farm buildings and structures, and animal raising, trapping and fishing, on site of five (5) acres or more, provided such use is not in conflict with any other ordinances of the City of New Orleans.

2. Private gardens, truck gardens, and nurseries for the propagation and cultivation of plants only when said plants, flowers, or produce are not offered for sale on the premises.

3. Public and private forests, wildlife reservations, and similar conservation projects.

You may need to contact The City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits at 504.658.7100 or City Planning Commission for Zoning issues at 504.658.7033; These entities have final discretion and NORA cannot and will not interpret these ordinances. These are a subset of all permitted activities within SFR Districts. If your proposed solution does not fit in any of these three categories, or if you have questions about which of these three categories best matches your project, please contact Julia Stewart.

What rights will the selected proposer have with respect to the property?

Based on the proposal and evaluation process, the selected proposer will have the right to purchase the property at the price set forth.

What kinds of utilities are available for the vacant lots?

You will need to contact the Sewarage and Water Board at 504.529.2837, to determine what costs/ deposits are associated with establishing services on the property. The monthly water fee is based on consumption. If electricity or gas are needed please contact Entergy at 1.800.368.3749. There will be a deposit for this service as well.

What does an example of a site plan look like?

Please download pdf to see a hand-drawn and a computer-rendered version. Both examples are acceptable.

What kinds of soil testing would I have to do?

pplicants who use the parcels for farming, growing of crops or other similar uses will required to: Obtain soil tests on all parcels through an established means of soil testing by an entity approved by NORA and confirm either that (i) the soil contains levels of toxic contaminants at or below the recognized “safe” level; or (ii) applicant will use elevated garden beds, hydroponic systems, or other growing system approved by NORA that does not utilize the soil on the parcel(s), if the soil contains unsafe levels of contaminants. Please visit the LSU Ag Center website soil testing costs between $5-$50.

Can individuals residing outside of New Orleans apply?

Yes, individuals who have residency outside of Greater New Orleans can apply. They will be evaluated like everyone else on their ability to follow through with their proposal and maintain the site.

Is signage allowed on the properties?

Yes. Before you put up any signage, we recommend checking with Department of the Safety and Permits around size restrictions and potential permits.

How much in closing costs will I need to pay for each available lot?

Download this document for the list of closing costs for each property. Closing costs are listed as “sale prices.”