PHS Pops-Up vibrantly on a vacant, tax-delinquent lot

As PlanPhilly’s JoAnn Greco recently reported, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s PHS Pops-Up Garden has returned for the second year running. This year a long-vacant lot on the 1900 block of Walnut Street has been transformed with raised beds bursting with plants in tropical hues, framing a long picnic table surrounded by brightly painted chairs.

It’s a beautiful and temporary intervention at one of the city’s most high-visibility tax-delinquent properties.

A garden of delight temporarily replaces weedy vacancy.
(A garden of delight temporarily replaces weedy vacancy.)

According to the to the Revenue Department’s website, Walnut Rittenhouse Associates (the investment group led by Castleway Properties LLC that owns 1907-15 Walnut Street) owes a cool $386,875.09 in back taxes on the lot.

In one of his 2011 stories about the city’s tax-delinquency crisis, PlanPhilly contributor Patrick Kerkstra mentioned this lot as one of two adjacent parcels that together comprised the third most tax-delinquent site in the city. (The other is 1904 Sansom Street) At the time, Patrick wrote: Third, owing $1.29 million on four years of unpaid taxes on two parcels, is Walnut Rittenhouse Associates, a defunct consortium of overseas investors that bailed on a plan to build a condominium tower just off Rittenhouse Square.

William Martin, a lawyer representing Walnut Rittenhouse Associates, said the group had entered into a payment agreement with the city and began paying down its debt in June. (That payment has yet to be reflected in public records, however.) Martin said the full past-due amount would be paid off within 18 months. Today the combined debt on the two neighboring properties is $1,044,218.10.

Of course, cheers to PHS for adding life to what is arguably the city’s highly-visible tax-delinquent vacant lots and for promoting their fantastic City Harvest program. Here’s hoping that the pop-up garden will also generate some development interest for a lot that has been vacant for too long.

Castleway, it’s swell that you’re supporting PHS. But if you want to do something really good for the city, pay your taxes.

Screen capture from PlanPhilly's tax-delinquency web app showing amounts owed at 1907 Walnut Street as of March 31, 2012.
(Screen capture from PlanPhilly's tax-delinquency web app showing amounts owed at 1907 Walnut Street as of March 31, 2012.)

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