Changing Neighborhoods by Revitalizing Abandoned Lots in Philadelphia

March 18, 2011 -- Everyone wins when neighborhood reinvestment reinforces -- rather than undermines -- the diversity of a community. 

Penn's Fels Institute of Government has released a report detailing how the redevelopment of vacant property in eastern North Philadelphia is transforming the neighborhood. 

The report - "Neighborhood Stabilization and Safety in East North Philadelphia" -- documents the success of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha- Association of Puerto Ricans on the March, APM, in working with public agencies to reduce crime, raise incomes, and attract new working households to the area studied between 1998 and 2010. The full report is available at:

The survey area APM target area is in North Philadelphia, east of Broad Street, bounded by North 4th Street, North 9th Street, Jefferson Street and York Street. 

Lead author Christopher Kingsley, a research associate at Fels, wrote the report under the supervision of Fels Institute Senior Consultant John Kromer. They studied neighborhood crime data from Penn's Cartographic Modeling Lab, U.S. census information and ESRI and PolicyMap demographic projections. 

"When I was the city's housing director in the 1990's, we inventoried all of the vacant lots in APM's target area and found well over 2100," Kromer says. "I had an opportunity with Fels to come back 10 years later to find out that more than half were developed or improved." 

In the 1980s, the area was known as Fairhill. It experienced a 20% drop in population between 1989 and 1999 and lost its identity. "It had a rather unimaginative official name in the city planning books-the Temple urban renewal area, " Kromer says.

The neighborhood is regaining the character it lost. According to the report, less than one percent of residents moved out of the area between 1999 and 2009. Census projections estimate that the neighborhood's ratio of Anglo Americans, African-Americans and Hispanic residents has remained consistent through the previous decade. Households in the area are about five percent wealthier than they were a decade ago and residents are better educated. 

Nilda Ruiz, APM president and CEO, grew up just outside the survey area, at 3rd and Diamond Streets. "For years this neighborhood was easily ignored and unseen. A lot of the houses were deteriorating," she says. "Today green spaces are replacing vacant lots, new LEED certified housing is under construction and a community owned supermarket employs community residents."

Soon the neighborhood that has gone so long without a name will have one. APM is undertaking a quality of life study. Ruiz says one of study's goals is to have community residents to come up with a name for their neighborhood. 

Video by Kurtis Sensenig
Text by Jacquie Posey

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