Alongside PlanPhilly’s panel discussion about the city’s vacant land strategies on June 12th, Eyes on the Street is collecting and sharing stories from Community Contributors about the effects of vacancy and blight on neighborhood quality of life, community development, and the potential for positive change presented by the city’s vacant property reform efforts. Joann Rose remembers the Point Breeze of her youth: lots of families and well-cared for blocks of rowhouses. Today, Rose hopes that environment can come back through equitable development on the neighborhood’s vacant lots.
When my parents bought their house in 1963 on the 2200 block of Cross Street there were no vacant lots. All of the homes were filled with families. Back then it felt like people had more pride in the neighborhood. They would paint their houses, put up flower pots and keep their property well maintained.
Then starting around 1990, vacant lots started popping up. Homeowners either passed away or moved out and soon many houses got torn down. Today there are more than 10 vacant lots just on my street alone! There are more vacant properties than people on my block, and it makes me feel insecure. It’s dangerous in the neighborhood as none of the lots are fenced in and 3 people have been robbed due to the easy access to our alleyway.
My vision for my block is to see to see more people move in—families who take pride in their property. I’d also like to see a community garden to feed kids from the neighborhood or perhaps build a playground in one of the empty lots.
Unfortunately the kind of development that has been happening nearby has not been affordable. There have been a lot of expensive condominiums going up around us. My neighbors and I are worried that we will be priced out of our own community here in Point Breeze. I would like to see more affordable, 2-story houses being built on the lots on my block. We need our city to promote development that would keep people from being pushed out of their own neighborhoods.
Eyes on the Street is collecting stories about the effects of vacancy on neighborhood quality of life and community development in Philadelphia. If you want to share your story, send it our way.