Cleaning and greening

Existing land use in the River Wards, from a 2014 Philadelphia City Planning Commission survey. Vacant land (brown) is more than double the 5% city average.

The River Wards section of Philadelphia—a growing district northeast of Center City along the Delaware River—is a former industrial area with more than double the percent of vacant land as the city average.

In 1996, a community engagement process led the local community development corporation (New Kensington CDC) to begin cleaning vacant lots in the Fishtown and East Kensington neighborhoods.

Over the next two decades, with strong community support and a partnership with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, NKCDC stabilized and reclaimed more than 1,000 vacant parcels. In the process, it set a national best practice for using vacant land management as a tool for economic development. The improved appearance attracted investment, and today those neighborhoods are among the fastest-growing in Philadelphia. 

NKCDC's Vacant Land Management crew continues to clean, stabilize and maintain hundreds of lots each year. On average, it cleans about 900 parcels and removes 30 tons of trash each year. NKCDC also organizes two community cleanup days and facilitates projects with volunteer groups to "clean and green" the neighborhood.