Terry Gillen, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia, spoke at an Urban Sustainability Forum entitled “No Vacancy: Reimagining Vacant Land in Philadelphia,” which took place at the Academy of Natural Sciences on Thursday, September 17. Roughly 275 people attended the event, which also featured Daniel Kildee and Farah Jimenez.
Gillen, who spoke first, described her remarks as a primer on vacant land. The basic facts are grim: Philadelphia has roughly 40,000 vacant properties. Since 1950, the city has lost 25% of its residents, some of whom simply abandoned their property. Almost 70% of that vacant property is privately owned, and more than half those owners are delinquent on their taxes.
But the issue goes far beyond uncollected taxes. Abandoned buildings and empty lots drag down the value of surrounding homes and businesses. According to Gillen, no part of Philadelphia is immune to this problem.