PHS Philadelphia LandCare is a nationally recognized model of landscape treatment and urban revitalization that addresses the widespread challenge of land vacancy plaguing the city’s neighborhoods.
As part of a strategic approach to neighborhood redevelopment, PHS works with community-based organizations and city agencies to transform Philadelphia’s vacant land into neighborhood assets.
The LandCare program cleans, greens, and stabilizes vacant lots to help return them to productive use. To date, this initiative has installed and maintained interim landscape treatments to over 12,000 parcels covering over 16 million square feet of vacant land in key transitional neighborhoods. Since its inception, more than 800 properties have been developed into new uses, including housing, commercial properties, and green space amenities.
The LandCare program encompasses two primary initiatives: “Clean and Green” and Community LandCare. The “Clean and Green” program targets vacant parcels in key target areas throughout the city and includes neighborhoods with public safety issues and ones that lack open space and green amenities. To complete this work, PHS hires city-based landscape contractors, who clean and mow the lots twice per month from April through October. Through the Community LandCare initiative, PHS works with 18 community organizations, who hire local residents to perform landscape maintenance work on vacant lots in their neighborhood.
This year, LandCare has expanded their work in community development to include providing work opportunities for returning citizens. Through the Reentry Initiative, current landscape contractors and community organizations have hired and trained more than 25 ex-offenders to perform landscape maintenance services in their communities, adding 2,000 new vacant parcels to the LandCare maintenance inventory and enhancing the program’s connection with PHS Roots to Re-Entry.
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The intervention is simple -- remove debris, plant grass and trees, add post-and-rail fencing, and provide maintenance after sites improvements have been completed -- but the results have been exceedingly extraordinary.
Did You Know
Dr. Charles Branas, associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, published a major study on the health and safety effects of the LandCare Program in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2011; findings show that greening was linked to significant reductions in certain crimes, such as gun assaults, as well as other indicators like stress, and low exercise.