$30 Million Grant to Transform North Central Philly

4th & CB Moore cropped

The PHS Philadelphia LandCare program transformed this lot at 4th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

By Alan Jaffe

The City of Philadelphia announced this week that it has received a Choice Neighborhoods Grant, a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to revitalize North Central Philadelphia.

As part of this concerted effort, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will receive $1 million over five years to transform vacant lots in the targeted section of the city through its Philadelphia LandCare program.

“This is a great opportunity for the city and the North Central Philadelphia community,” said PHS President Drew Becher. “Since 2000, the LandCare program has cleaned and greened 10 million square feet of vacant land in partnership with the city, resulting in higher property values, significant reductions in crime, and healthier environments in communities throughout Philadelphia.”

Deborah McColloch, director of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD), said, “PHS is a key partner and the LandCare program will be a strategic tool as we turn 700 vacant lots from blighting eyesores into neighborhood assets” in North Central Philadelphia through the Choice Neighborhoods program.

The Choice Neighborhoods program was created to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing, with local leaders, residents, and stakeholders working together to develop and implement a plan for transformation.

The Choice Neighborhoods effort in North Central Philadelphia is led by OHCD, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, and Temple University.

In announcing the grant on June 30, Mayor Nutter said, “This is an exciting day for the residents of the North Central neighborhood and the entire City of Philadelphia. This grant is critical to our comprehensive revitalization strategy – it will help us to address many of the serious challenges facing this community: poverty, unemployment, poor educational attainment, and decreased opportunities for residents. I know that HUD’s investment will help us transform this community and act as a lightning rod for even more investment from local, state and private sources.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Days Until the Show! Here Are Some Things You Might Not Know

PHS Flower Show (11)Just six days from now, visitors to the 2014 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show will be experiencing ARTiculture, a one-of-a-kind collaboration between our exhibitors and museum partners . Whether inspired by a specific painting, a collection, or a genre of art, the displays are sure to be a feast for the senses–a floral fantasy of beautiful plants and cutting-edge designs. But before you put on your most comfortable shoes and charge those camera batteries, here are a few things you might want to know about world’s largest flower show!

The first Philadelphia Flower Show was held in 1829 in the 82-by-69-foot Masonic Hall on Chestnut Street. Twenty-five Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) members showed off their horticultural treasures, including a variety of exotic and native plants. In 1966, the Show was presented in the lower level of the Civic Center and in 1968, PHS became the official producer. The Flower Show remained in the Civic Center until 1996, when it moved to its current location at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In this Center City venue, the Show encompasses 33 indoor acres, with exhibit space taking up 10 acres of the main exhibit hall. Almost 300,00 people visit the Show each year.

PHS Flower Show (14)Founded in 1827, PHS is America’s first horticultural society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “motivate people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture.” Proceeds from the Flower Show benefit PHS’s gardening, greening, and learning programs year round.

PHS City Harvest is one of those gardening initiatives. Through City Harvest, PHS and its partners have empowered urban gardeners to share the fruits of their labor with families in need. The program is creating an infrastructure of agricultural supply and education centers, as well as expanding fresh food production, distribution, and consumption in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. PHS City Harvest gardeners grow more than 20,000 pounds of produce each year, helping to feed approximately 1,000 families per week during the growing season, including residents of neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity in the region.

In its greening efforts, PHS Philadelphia LandCare is a nationally recognized model of landscape treatment to address the widespread challenge of land vacancy plaguing the city’s core. As part of a strategic approach to neighborhood redevelopment, PHS works with community-based organizations and City agencies to transform Philadelphia’s vacant land into neighborhood assets by “cleaning and greening” selected lots in key neighborhoods. Philadelphia LandCare provides custodial management for 10 million square feet of land, more than 8,000 lots, and provides jobs for more than 100 Philadelphia residents.

So as you escape winter’s last blast and jump into spring, remember that the Philadelphia Flower Show is a fundraiser for PHS and your ticket purchase helps support its important programs. For that, we thank you!

To learn more about PHS and to become a member, please click here. The entire history of the Flower Show can be found in the exciting new book, Images of America The Philadelphia Flower Show. Pick up your copy at the PHS Store at the Show, or click here.

Unexpected Art, Fighting Blight, and Other News

You can spend endless hours reading the local papers, magazines, and blogs to learn what’s happening in the region. In regards to the greening scene, here are a few pieces that have caught my attention.

Reclaiming Land, Reducing Costs

How do you fight blight? That question has kept many a city planner awake at night, and there’s obviously no easy answer. But PHS’s Philadelphia LandCare program has made tremendous inroads by “cleaning and greening” abandoned lots. It’s a simple, effective approach that is comparatively affordable. Read more about it in a new article published by Axis Philly. Click here.

Garden Reaches Across Generations

Dozens of people have told me that a passion for gardening is a genetic trait and family affair. A CityPaper blog post describes how senior citizens in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood are looking to their grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) to help sustain a new garden at 32nd & Ridge. Read more about the gardening generation gap here.

New Construction Popping Up

Major plans are underway for the site of PHS’s first Pop Up Garden, which, you might recall, occupied 20th & Market streets in the summer of 2011. It appears as though construction will soon begin on a 28-story apartment tower, you can see a rendering here. This is one of several big buildings in development in that part of town. Learn more about what’s ahead for the Logan Square neighborhood here.

An Outsider’s Perspective on Philly Art

No matter where you stand in Center City, you’re likely steps away from a statue, mural, mosaic, or other artistic creation. The New York edition of offMetro recently wrote about our city’s art offerings—including some things even locals might not know. All this makes us very eager for “ARTiculture,” which gets a shout-out in the story. Click here.

PHS Philadelphia LandCare Goes on Tour!

Like many older cities, Philadelphia is burdened with hundreds of acres of abandoned, trash-strewn land as a result of decades of population loss. As part of a strategic approach to neighborhood redevelopment, PHS works with community-based organizations and city agencies to transform Philadelphia’s vacant land into neighborhood assets.

Under contract with the Philadelphia City Office of Housing and Community Development, PHS developed the Philadelphia LandCare Program, which “cleans and greens” selected lots in key neighborhoods across the city. This includes removing debris, grading, and planting grass and trees to create park-like settings. A signature post-and-rail fence sends a message that the formerly neglected land is now being cared for. Through a component of the program called Community LandCare, community-based organizations are hired to clean other nuisance lots that have not received the clean-and-green treatment.

One of the aims of the Philadelphia LandCare Program is to make neighborhoods healthier and safer. In 2011 Dr. Charles Branas, associate professor of epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, published a major study on the health and safety effects of the Philadelphia LandCare Program in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Dr. Branas and his research team found that greening was linked to significant reductions in certain crimes, such as gun assaults, as well as other indicators such as stress and low exercise.

As a result of this comprehensive approach to managing abandoned land, Philadelphia now has an innovative model that is applicable to other cities. This targeted system not only improves the appearance and livability of communities, it also contributes to public health and safety, raises property values, and stimulates new investment. To that end, PHS LandCare Program Director Bob Grossmann has traveled outside the Philadelphia region to spread the message of positive vacant land use.

October 19 in Mexico City, Museo Tamayo. From left to right: Marcelo Rangel, workshop coordinator; Hugo Hopping, principal, The Winter Office (an architectural design collaborative), Copenhagen, Denmark; Rick Lowe, artist and founder of Project Row Houses (a community development corporation), Houston, TX; and Bob Grossmann. The workshop series addressed the use of creative strategies from around the world as a tool for social innovation, crime prevention, community building, and participation.

October 29 in San Francisco for the American Public Health Association national conference. From left to right Bob Grossmann; Deborah McColloch, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development, City of Philadelphia; Dr. Charles Branas, Dept of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania.  The trio spoke as a panel at the invitation of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Next up was a trip to Milwaukee on November 19 for a day-long workshop at the request of the Wisconsin Medical Center in concert with the City of Milwaukee. More to come!

PHS’s Urban Planner Blogs About Vacant Land Use and the Power of Trees

Jeffrey Barg, an urban planner at PHS, recently wrote a blog post about his experiences in New Orleans while attending a land-use conference and being involved in a tree-planting effort.

When Jeffrey and the other volunteers were planting trees in the Pigeon Town area of the Lower Ninth Ward, a young man was murdered just steps away from them. Saddened by the event, Jeffrey revisited the area months later to find that not only were the trees still there and beautifying the neighborhood, the one that he had helped plant was thriving! Click here to read the emotion-packed story.