March 22, 2013 |
THESE DAYS I'm feeling a lot like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day. " Back in 1999, the Inquirer ran an op-ed of mine that opened with the line: "The future of Philadelphia rests on our ability to manage decline. " The key point of the op-ed was this: "Coordination - even if we could pull it off - is simply not a strong enough response. We're attempting to coordinate agencies designed for an era of growth and oriented to the obsolete land uses that abandoned properties had 10 or 50 years ago. All these agencies are busy with core missions that have nothing to do with managing the effects of depopulation; vacant land is not their priority.
March 15, 2013
A proliferation of place-specific apps can help you catch a bus, stop blight, or drop the dime on municipal fraud. Many cities have released "311" apps that help individuals report potholes, illegal dumping, and the like to the proper authorities without a lot of phoning, running around, and filing of forms. There are NYC 311 , Baltimore 311 , Grand Rapids 311 , and so on. Philly311 is a free app for Android and Apple devices. Its maker, PublicStuff, has a roster of apps for municipalities around the country under titles such as Fix It Plano for that North Texas suburb and DigiTally for the good citizens of Tallahassee, Fla. With Philly311, if you spot an eyesore - say, graffiti on a building or a mattress by the roadside - tap the "New Request" icon on the menu screen.
March 12, 2013
Rats, fleas, and roaches thrive in the city's abandoned, tax-delinquent properties. Often loaded with garbage inside and out, the structures are more prone to fires than occupied buildings. They harbor drug dealers and their stashes. And they soak up precious city resources, such as the taxpayer money ultimately required to demolish the most dangerous of them. Beyond their extensive costs to public health and safety, these properties rob the city of millions in tax dollars that could be used to improve city services and help the drowning School District.
December 29, 2012 |
Sam Rappaport's empire of blight once extended clear across Center City's midsection, from the Schuylkill to the Delaware, and beyond. But since his death in 1994, his heirs have shed his holdings, shrinking his domain to an archipelago of surface parking lots and shuttered stores. Some of Rappaport's most notorious architectural victims, such as the Victory and PSFS buildings, have even gone on to lead productive lives again. Much of what does remain of Rappaport's kingdom is now controlled by Richard Basciano, a close friend and business associate who served for a time as executor of his estate.
November 12, 2012
A new Pennsylvania law allows local governments to take control of blighted properties and cancel tax liens and bank foreclosures so the land can be sold to responsible owners or developers willing to improve hard-luck neighborhoods. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Land Bank Act late last month to streamline the cumbersome process of returning delinquent properties to tax rolls in towns struggling to boost their tax bases. More than 300,000 vacant properties are scattered across the state, including about 40,000 in Philadelphia.
October 23, 2012
PHILADELPHIA HAS been awarded a $100,000 grant to address blight and literacy, a national nonprofit organization announced Monday. The organization Cities of Service, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, helps cities use volunteers to tackle local issues. The grant will be used to support PhillyRising CREATES, which will help volunteers in 10 neighborhoods clean blighted spaces, create murals and hold community activities to revitalize various areas; and Technology Today Tutors, which will help volunteer tutors assist adults in developing literacy and digital skills.
September 11, 2012 |
ON A SWELTERING, sunlit summer afternoon, Vincent Kennedy marched through the community garden at the end of his North Philadelphia block, proudly showing off crops that he cares for. "We had corn, but it went fast," Kennedy, 53, said, nimbly stepping around beds of flourishing plants that brighten the corner at 27th and Silver streets. "The only rule of the garden is, you can come get as much as you want, as long as you leave some for the next person. " Kennedy and his neighbors say that their block - historically plagued with drug activity and violence - has gotten better since the PhillyRising Collaborative started work in the neighborhood last fall, targeting the area from 22nd Street west to 27th, and Lehigh Avenue north to Indiana.
August 11, 2012 |
Developer Eric Blumenfeld is attempting to buy the derelict Divine Lorraine Hotel either directly from the current owners or at sheriff's sale in the fall, sources familiar with the negotiations say. Blumenfeld, who has been credited with sparking a revival along North Broad Street, has had crews in the building to examine its condition since late July. If negotiations with the owners fail, sources said, Blumenfeld will work with the city and the bank that holds the debt on the Broad Street landmark to acquire it at a sheriff's sale in October.
May 25, 2012 |
Cheers to the Nutter administration for clearing some of the bureaucratic impediments that have paralyzed Philadelphia's ability to manage its wealth of properties, much of which is stuck in a hellish cycle of abandonment and blight. Using an interactive database accessible to anyone, a potential property buyer can key in an address, a block, or a neighborhood, find a piece of city-owned property, and start negotiating to buy it. The hope is that transfers of city land to private owners will speed up and help stabilize neighborhoods trying to fight blight.
April 20, 2012 |
The 40,000 parcels of vacant, often neglected properties in Philadelphia are a non-stop emergency — and not just because of awful events like the fire at the Buck Hosiery factory that claimed the lives of two firemen. According to a 2010 report from Econsult, these parcels reduce property values citywide by $3.6 billion. City government spends $20 million each year just to "maintain" the 12,000 parcels it owns. (That's the cost of a lot of cops, which, ironically, we need more of, since vacants invite trouble into neighborhoods.)