Friday, May 24 — Growing its Garden Program and helping Lansing improve its commercial corridors are on the top of the priority list for Jeff Burdick, the new executive director of the Ingham County Land Bank.
His job duties include overseeing the day-to-day grind of the operation, its 12 staff members, a handful of AmeriCorps workers and roughly 900 properties throughout the county.
Burdick, 39, grew up in Troy. He earned his masters degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan. After graduation, he started work as the assistant planner in Naperville, Ill. and later became the general planner in Evanston, Ill.
In 2003, he returned to Michigan where he worked for six years at the Genesee County Land Bank as its community planner. He and his family then moved to North Carolina, where he worked for the state’s Division of Community Assistance. He also worked for the planning department in Durham, N.C. The Land Bank job brought Burdick back to Michigan.
“I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead and I’m ready to lead the Land Bank in continuing to do good work for Lansing and Ingham County,” he said. “We moved out of Michigan, but I’m glad to be back.
Eric Schertzing, Ingham County Treasurer and Land Bank Chairman, said Burdick was chosen from a field of 30 candidates, five of whom were interviewed for the position.
“Jeff has a planning background, which is a different, but complementary skill set to the Land Bank and we’re excited to have someone with his experience to lead us forward,” Schertzing said. “Great things lie ahead.”
One of the main areas he’d like to focus on, Burdick said, is helping Lansing by working with the city to improve its commercial corridors. Schertzing, expanded on that saying the Land Bank owns several properties along the Kalamazoo and Pennsylvania Avenue corridors that could eventually become mixed-use developments.
Another area where Burdick would like to expand is the Land Bank’s Garden Program. The program allows residents to lease vacant properties and use them for community gardens. The program has grown steadily over the years, from 13 gardens in 2010 to 23 gardens on Land Bank property in 2012. He said he’d like to expand the lease terms from one-year leases to something more long term.
“When we have a vacant property, we want to see development, we want to see density, we don’t want to hold properties for long,” he said. “We’d eventually like to see housing, but in the interim, those spaces could be utilized as gardens and beautification projects for the community.”
Throughout the county there are 350 Land Bank land parcels that could be used for community gardening, he said.
Burdick will work closely with outgoing Executive Director Mary Ruttan, Schertzing said, who be at the Land Bank through the end of the year to help work on special projects.