4,700 Vacant Housing Units / 1,900 Abandoned Housing Units
4,700 Vacant Housing Units / 1,900 Abandoned Housing Units

“How can our city take advantage of world-class natural and historic assets to compete and thrive in the 21st century?”

Client: City of Erie

Team Members: Peter Lombardi, Karen Beck Pooley, Charles Buki, Andrea Weinberg, Jeff Winston

Services: Housing Analysis, Visioning, Facilitation, Steering Committee, Report Creation, Private Sector Engagement

In 2015, czb was asked to develop a Comprehensive Plan for Erie, a city of approximately 100,000 residents that is home to multiple universities, Erie Insurance (a Fortune 500 company), and a downtown with numerous assets but high levels of blight and vacancy. At the time czb came to Erie, the city's poverty rate was nearing 30 percent and more than 4,000 housing units in the city were sitting vacant. And while the number of middle- and upper-income households in the Erie region has grown by almost 20 percent since 1969, their numbers in the city had plummeted by 33 percent.

During the project, czb worked with a 17-member steering committee and a 14-member technical advisory committee comprised of city officials to establish priorities, conduct outreach, and develop drafts of the comprehensive plan, which was explicitly meant to reprioritize and refocus investment in Erie and help leaders face the reality of conditions across the city and region.

Preparation for the comprehensive plan involved a comprehensive analysis and review of economic, housing, and land use in the city. czb also conducted an in-person assessment of 30,000 housing structures and found that more than one-third exhibited signs of moderate to significant distress.

Project Outcomes

Erie's Comprehensive Plan was adopted unanimously by Erie City Council in 2016.

See coverage on how the plan is moving forward here.

Plan recognized with the APA's Daniel Burnham Award for a comprehensive plan in Pennsylvania.

Read the news brief from by clicking here.

Erie City Council is working to create a land bank and revolving loan fund to address blight.  Read the coverage here.


Erie held a Metro 100 Conference to discuss the city's future and the possibility of increasing private sector involvement in Erie's future endeavors.

czb’s approach in Erie was to focus on the needs most pressing to the city and work with the steering and technical advisory committees to test and present these concepts to the wider Erie community. At public meetings, attendees went through trade-off exercises to test and refine their own priorities for how best to invest in the city and its neighborhoods.