Arcadia Commons is committed to creating healthy public spaces where our community can experience the physical, emotional and intellectual enrichment provided by green space. Community is an essential part of the human experience and we aim to provide space for our neighbors to come together, along with programming that improves lives in many different ways.
Arcadia Commons was founded by residents of East Kensington whose collective expertise in visual arts, design, architecture, arts education, community organizing, urban planning, sustainable building, and real estate provides Arcadia Commons the ingredients for success.
Philadelphia has more than 40,000 vacant lots; it is one of the defining problems of our city, and one of its potential advantages, as well. In late 2013, the city passed legislation to create a Land Bank that will dispose of vacant city property, and oversee the disposition of abandoned private property. Arcadia Commons is a member of The Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land that was instrumental in proposing this legislation and shepherding it through City Council to see that it include community organizations as stakeholders. The Land Bank is now being inaugurated, and its rules and procedures written. Now is the time to set the bar for dynamic urban renewal all across the city and Arcadia Commons has already gained a voice to see that these policies are implemented in favor of local community organizations, not just real estate developers. One of our goals is to host a Tiny House workshop, building a house for less than $10,000, followed by a seminar on the Land Bank opportunities to empower citizens to acquire blighted, empty lots. With your support, we can make our neighborhood a leader in self-sustainable practices.
First, we are working to acquire and preserve a block of sixteen empty lots that are in danger of being developed exclusively for expensive housing. Research shows that urban green spaces not only foster community, but also contribute to the health and wellness of local residents. The East Kensington neighborhood continues to be riddled with blighted, empty lots and is home to a diverse mix of African American, Latino, Asian and Caucasian residents; more than 40% of the neighborhood’s residents live at or below the poverty line. Thanks to the improvements that community organizations have fostered, revitalization has moved north to our area of Frankford Avenue. While this is a positive thing, it also means that real estate developers are buying property in this neighborhood faster than anywhere else in the city, and we need to work that much harder to protect potential community resources from exploitation.
Twelve of the vacant parcels in question are orphaned and tax-delinquent. In order to take these lots back and create a safe community space, we have elicited the active participation of Councilman Mark Squilla. His office has already helped us begin the process of obtaining the tax-delinquent lots by eminent domain. We have purchased two other lots which were not tax-delinquent. We have been offered a third as a donation.
As we gain legal control of the site, we will make significant improvements on the parcels to keep them safe and productive in the short term. Our plans include a kiosk for event and neighborhood signage, installing park benches and lighting, adding a small gazebo for events, and much more. We will work with our local partners to take on the ongoing maintenance of the lots including mowing, pest control, and basic cleaning and greening. Furthermore, Arcadia Commons’ leadership is in the process of creating a visioning statement for the long-term design and programming of the parcels once site control is complete.