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By Scott Meyer
Bob Grossmann has shared the results with visitors from around the world.
The 40,000 abandoned properties in Philadelphia are more than eyesores. “They are a crisis for the city,” says Bob Grossmann, senior director of the PHS Philadelphia LandCare program. “They are trouble spots in their neighborhoods, they diminish the value of homes around them, and they produce no tax revenue for the city.” In 2000, PHS launched a vacant land stabilization effort to clean up empty lots and plant trees, shrubs, and grass on them. Since then, between 400 and 500 lots each year have been revitalized thanks to the collaboration of PHS staff, community groups, and volunteers. The lots are maintained by local contractors under the direction of PHS.
The program’s impact is visible to all who live in or travel through the city’s most blighted neighborhoods, but just as important is the inspiration it has provided to other communities around the United States and beyond. “The cycle of abandonment has affected many places,” says Grossmann. “What’s unique about Philadelphia is a sustained investment in changing this cycle.”
Cleaning up vacant lots turns eyesores into green spaces.
More than 20 cities and groups from Japan and South Korea have sent delegates to meet with PHS and learn about the LandCare program. “A pilot project involving Rutgers University, the Greater Newark Conservancy, and YouthBuild is currently under way,” Grossmann reports. “In May 2015, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority announced a new vacant land revitalization program that was inspired by our work. Youngstown, Ohio, has a very robust vacant land program that was modeled after ours.”
Grossmann has announced his plan to retire in September 2016, but he will continue to follow the fate of the city’s vacant land. “Cleaning up all of these lots has made a difference,” he says, “but the next challenge is how to make these places in our most troubled neighborhoods into permanent green spaces.”
12,000+ vacant parcels in Philadelphia have been reclaimed since 2000.
800 of the properties have been redeveloped for residential and commercial use.
18 community organizations partner with PHS on maintenance.
Also in This Issue
A thriving urban farm has sprouted up on an abandoned industrial site, producing fresh food for the community.
Armed with saplings and shovels, a group of dedicated volunteers gather to beautify their neighborhood.
These New Jersey public gardens are more than worth a visit.
Add weeks to your growing season with a salvaged window.