Cooperatove Conservation Project

Philadelphia Vacant Land Management and Reclamation

From Derelict Lot to Urban Oasis

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Pennsylvania

Project Summary: A "clean and green" approach to remove blight, attract new residents, and attract investment to urban, vacant land in Philadelphia.
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Before and after conditions on a lot in Philadelphia treated under the Vacant Land Stabilization program.
Resource Challenge
Philadelphia, once the colonial capital and an industrial hub, has been  buffeted by 50 years of economic downturns.  As the jobs left, so did  the people.  Once a city of 2 million, it now has fewer than 1.5 million.
Although the Center City is undergoing a renaissance, urban flight over several generations has left 40,000 abandoned and derelict parcels of lands where thriving factories, businesses, and homes once stood.  Vacant lots attract dumping, harbor toxic chemicals, depress property values, and attract criminal activity, contributing to a downward spiral in the quality of life.
In 1995, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), best known for the Philadelphia Flower Show, decided to form a partnership with the City through its Philadelphia Green program to address urban decay.  The city’s Office of Housing and Urban Development  supported the project with federal Community Development Block  Grant funds. Restoration focused on “clean and green”, using a  simple combination of grass, trees, and wood fencing.  In 2003, the City adopted the Philadelphia Green Program’s Green City Strategy  and invested $4 million to launch a full scale effort, directing city agencies to provide additional support.  The PHS garnered private  foundation and corporate funds to support the massive greening effort by improving community parks, gardens, and public spaces.
Examples of Key Partners
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Mayor’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, Philadelphia Water Department, community groups, and interested citizens.  
Results and Accomplishments
Ten years after the project began, more than $10 million has been invested and more than 70 acres of vacant land have been restored.  Nearly 2,000 trees have been planted, nine community groups are helping to maintain the sites, and more than 75 community residents have been hired to support maintenance activities.
A Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania study concluded that residential real estate values in the New Kensington  neighborhood increased by 30 percent solely because of the project.   Wharton is conducting a city-wide study and expects similar  results.
The project has generated new thinking about using vacant land to manage storm water.  The City and its citizens will be creating a vision and a strategy for a “new” Philadelphia, a place where oncevacant land becomes an asset and a treasured resource. 

A large-scale urban rehabilitation and “re-greening” project on vacant lots in the heart of Philadelphia, fueled by the hard work and creativity of citizens, private organizations, and local government, has restored 70 acres of vacant lots, turning back economic decline and improving the quality of life for many of the City’s residents.

Project Contact
Mike Groman
Senior Director of Philadelphia Green
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society



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