Category Archives: Beautification

Lots of Possibility: Grassroots vacant lot project with Mural Arts Program underway in Germantown

One of the biggest issues facing W Rockland Street has been managing the block’s new public spaces. In 2014, Aine and I submitted a proposal to the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program aimed at improving conditions within the vacant lot on the corner of W Rockland Street and Greene Street. We are excited to announce it was approved! The project is now underway and will be completed during the summer months of 2015.

Lot at the corner of W Rockland Street & Greene Street

Lot at the corner of W Rockland Street & Greene Street

The proposed project aims to activate and beautify the vacant lot. The highly visible location makes it possible to further the connection between neighboring blocks around W Rockland and bolster what we’re building here. Improvements will include light landscaping and features that help to break-up the space, making it easier to maintain and inviting use; the installation of a community message board; new plantings and flowers; and a mural on the facade of the last house of W Rockland Street. The mural, visible from Greene Street, will face the open space. The project may also include other interventions developed during the community engagement process.

We hope to make our grassroots neighborhood revitalization efforts more sustainable by turning this vacant space into a safe place for residents.

The project is designed to be temporary but durable and accomadate long-term temporary use, in this period between blight and possible redevelopment.

It will also be accessible and costs will be kept low, so that the ideas put in place here can be easily replicated by anyone elsewhere – from your average D-I-Y citizen to grassroots community groups like ours.

Zoom around this Google Map of the space and get a lay of the land. 4819 Greene is owned by the City of Philadelphia; 4817 Greene is privately owned by the tax delinquent and missing-in-action Church of God by Faith; and 4815 Greene is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Special shoutout to the lady crossing the street in the satellite image!

THE WALL

Michelle Oosterbaan, a contemporary artist working with the Mural Arts Program, will paint the mural. Oosterbaan is currently working on the color pallet and mural concept, after meeting with residents and talking about the ideas and things they would like the mural to evoke. Her abstract mural at Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology (PCAT) in West Oak Lane is what first caught our eye.

The mural will add beauty and brightness to Southwest Germantown and link the houses on W Rockland and Greene. The side-wall of the house where the mural will be painted was previously blocked by the abandoned properties that once stood on Greene Street, and now has a new audience.

Kevon flies a paper airplane in October 2013 in front of 74 W Rockland St, where the mural will be installed.

Kevon flies a paper airplane in October 2013 in front of 74 W Rockland St, where the mural will be installed.

Michelle Oosterbaan’s “Pulse” at Philadelphia Center for Art and Technology, a collaboration with the Mural Arts Program.

EMPOWERING D-I-Y CITIZENS

Many people think maintaining vacant land is really the city’s responsibility, and that might be true. But shouldn’t it be easier for residents who want to care for and reimagine these spaces? With this project, we think we can make it easier.

It seems kind of bonkers that the solution for community-managed vacant land tends to go from keeping lots litter free and the grass mowed, to community gardens and urban farms, with little in-between. A fence around a vacant lot is sometimes not enough. And let’s face it, community gardens are hard – we know this because we built one in another vacant lot at the top of our block. We want to uncover more creative in-between uses for vacant lots that can be done on the cheap. 

At the same time, there are many residents living in Philly neighborhoods, like ours, that lack resources and organizational capacity to take on this kind of project from scratch. We think they just need a how-to. 

Every part of this project will be documented and shared online here at rocklandstreet.com for anyone to adapt or copy what we’ve tried, without having to reinvent the wheel. We’ll post tips for getting neighborhood participation, detailed instructions for how to create anything we build for the lot, clever fundraising tactics, and more.

OFF THE WALL

Interestingly, this wide open space is a relatively new addition to our neighborhood fabric, thanks to the demolition of two abandoned rowhouses that towered over the community, some say for over 20 years.

It wasn’t until June 2011 that the footprints of the looming three-story houses (4815 Greene and 4817 Greene St) joined the adjacent overgrown lot (4819 Greene), already a popular illegal dump site.

The story of how that happened is not exactly typical.

Over Memorial Day Weekend in 2011, Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter paid a surprise visit to the block to see the Grow This Block! garden project – a day on which over 30 households on W Rockland St planted fruit, veggie, herb, and flower gardens in their front yards. The Mayor had read an article by Inga Saffron about the planting project in The Philadelphia Inquirer and showed up with the newspaper in-hand. It was then that he toured the block and saw the condition of the abandoned properties.

Wildness. Google Maps image of the space in 2008.

Wildness. Google Maps image of the space in 2008.

L&I had already declared the buildings imminently dangerous, after a re-inspection requested by the community. But within days of the Mayor’s visit, the demolition was scheduled.

“When neighbors are trying to make something happen, we, the city, have to meet them halfway,” Mayor Nutter told the Inquirer.

What happened next is perhaps more typical.

After the houses were demolished (yay!) the lot was left unprotected without a fence, and the ground remained a sandy pit with bits and pieces of rock and concrete from the houses (doh!). Soon cars and trucks began parking in the lot and illegal dumping returned. Navigating what to do next was challenging.

By 2013, it was clear we had to find an alternative use for the vacant lot and work to turn the space into something that neighbors could enjoy. We began with simple beautification projects. We also hosted community events in the lot, including yard sales and a kids Halloween party.

The bottom of the block began to look and feel differently. It began to look like a space people cared about.

The question now is how to make more people care about this vacant lot (and others around the city), which is a big part of what this project is all about.

LOTS OF POSSIBILITY

Taking action
2009 – 2011
In 2009, residents on W Rockland St began organizing cleanups of the lot and the abandoned properties, working to maintain the area and put an end to illegal dumping.  Philly Spring Cleanup, April 4, 2009.

In 2009, residents on W Rockland St began organizing cleanups of the abandoned properties, working to maintain the space and put an end to illegal dumping. Philly Spring Cleanup, April 4, 2009.

4819 Greene St after W Rockland St Project’s Philly Spring Cleanup 2009 project in which the lot was cleaned.

4819 Greene St after W Rockland St Project’s Philly Spring Cleanup 2009 project in which the lot was cleaned.

4819, 4817, 4815 Greene St after W Rockland St Project’s Philly Spring Cleanup 2009 project in which the lot was cleaned and graffiti was removed from the front of the houses.

4819, 4817, 4815 Greene St after W Rockland St Project’s Philly Spring Cleanup 2009 project in which the lot was cleaned and graffiti was removed from the front of the houses.

Demolition of 4817 and 4815 Greene St in June 2011, funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), managed by the Redevelopment Authority.

Demolition of 4817 and 4815 Greene St in June 2011, funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), managed by the Redevelopment Authority.

W Rockland St's very own sand lot. The condition  of the lot after the demolition of the houses in June 2011.

W Rockland St’s very own sand lot. The condition of the lot after the demolition of the houses in June 2011.

Germantown Beach. Kids play in the sand lot in September 2011.

Germantown Beach. Kids play in the sand lot in September 2011.

An evolving space
2012 – 2015

GET INVOLVED

If you’re interested in helping make this project happen and supporting The W Rockland Street Project, there are lots of opportunities to get involved.

Our first community meeting was held on Monday, June 22 at the steps of the DePaul Catholic School. Join us at the next one (date TBD) and contact us if you have immediate questions.

We will be working to increase communication and engagement with residents of the 4800 block of Greene St, who face the vacant lot, the flanking 100 blocks of Logan St and Wyneva St, the 4800 block of Germantown Ave, and other surrounding blocks.

Sign-up for our email list! Keep up with The W Rockland Street Project! We’ll send very occasional emails with stories from the block, along with updates about our vacant lot project with Mural Arts Program.


Full disclosure: Emaleigh Doley is currently working on the Mural Arts Program’s citywide public art exhibition Open Source (coming October 2015) as a programming consultant. The idea and development of this project however predates that engagement. 

Advertisements

Lower Germantown Streetscape Project Set for June 21

On Saturday, June 21 over two dozen planters and tree pits will be planted with vibrant annuals and perennials on a two-block stretch of Germantown Avenue between Penn Street and Bringhurst Street. The zone was selected by Tree Germantown and the W Rockland Street Project as a corridor greening pilot experiment.

Despite lacking a formal business association, this lesser-known Germantown business district is full of life with the addition of two new businesses, Sandalwood Yoga Studio and the soul food restaurant Tasties.

There are also three building renovations underway including new construction for Around The Clock Home Health Care just before Penn Street, developer Ken Weinstein’s renovation of the 6-story building at 5301 Germantown Avenue, and Stan Smith’s renovation of 5320 Germantown Avenue. Tracy McNeil, owner of the yoga studio at 5310 Germantown Avenue, recently completed a historic renovation of the property which includes the storefront studio on the street-level and apartments on the upper floors (read about the renovation at NewsWorks.org).

Google Maps capture of Germantown Avenue from Penn Street looking towards Bringhurst Street.

Google Maps capture of Germantown Avenue from Penn Street looking towards Bringhurst Street.

 

Aine Doley (that’s me!) and Penn Knox resident Amy Steinbugler went door-to-door to pitch the planting project and discuss the benefits of bringing greenery to Germantown Avenue. Many businesses were eager to join the effort, but some took convincing.

Those who declined to participate raised concerns about the plantings being able to survive the urban environment and the shoppers who frequent businesses along the corridor. Will the planters be stolen? Will passersby put trash in the planters? One business owner believed that people would urinate in the planters and sit on them while waiting for the 23 bus.

The participating businesses and organizations willing to give greenery a chance in the neighborhood include:

  • Sandalwood Yoga Studio at 5310 Germantown Ave
  • The One Less Foundation at 5275 Germantown Ave inside the historic Clarkson-Watson House (circa 1740)
  • Grumblethorpe at 5267 Germantown Ave, John Wister’s historic summer home built in 1744
  • Bargain Thrift at 5245 Germantown Ave
  • Around The Clock Home Health Care at 5226 Germantown Ave (current location)
  • Tasties at 5241 Germantown Ave
  • Kbello Kolors Hair Salon (tentative) at 5237 Germantown Ave
  • 5301 Germantown Ave (building currently being renovated by Ken Weinstein / Philly Office Retail)
  • 5320 Germantown Ave (building currently being renovated Stan Smith / Philly Office Retail)

Each participating business is contributing $25 per planter and has agreed to care for and water the new plants in front of their business. This project was made possible through generous donations from our community partners, who have helped to subsidize the costs of materials: Historic Germantown, Germantown United CDC, G’Town Restoration CDC, and the City of Philadelphia’s PhillyRising initiative, which selected Germantown as a Philly Rising 2.0 neighborhood in early February.

As Germantown continues to grow, Tree Germantown and the W Rockland Street Project will continue to push for greening and tree planting in our neighborhood.

Volunteers needed

Volunteering during the planting day is a great way to meet neighbors and get to know local business owners. Join us on Saturday, June 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Email treegermantown@gmail.com to sign-up and visit facebook.com/treegermantown for additional volunteer information.

planting_flyer_june21

Thanks again to our sponsors!

historic germantown phillyrising-logo GUCDC-logo gtownrestoration

Momentum in Germantown: 30 projects planned for annual Philly Spring Cleanup

Graphic
In its seventh year, it’s time for the City of Philadelphia and the Streets Department to drop mega-trash stats to show and prove just how much we can all clean up during the Philly Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 5. Just how big are the numbers? 1,014,540 pounds of trash collected, 4,030 tires removed and 23,341 pounds of recycling was collected during the 2013 clean up.

In Germantown there will be a huge presence felt all over the neighborhood with 30 official projects registered! Can you feel it? It’s momentum. Keep up the sweep up!

The W Rockland Street Project has two projects planned for the big day – Emaleigh will be working with W Rockland Street Neighbors on a block cleanup and Aine will be leading a cleanup with the Southwest Germantown Business District at Freedom Square (5101 Germantown Avenue).

Sign up to volunteer for a Germantown (or any other neighborhood!) project by clicking here!

Momentum \mō-ˈmen-təm, mə-\ 
the strength or force that something has when it is moving.
the strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes.

stat-trash

Volunteer for one of many project sites in Germantown

Sign up in advance … or just show up to lend a hand!

cleanup_map

1. Lingelbach Elementary School
6340 Wayne Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

2. Hood Clean Up
4901 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

3. SoLo/GCA-WAM Philly Spring Clean Up 2014
Municipal parking lot
4919-25 Wayne Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

4. Friends of Happy Hollow Playground and Community Garden
4800 Wayne Ave (upper level Pulaski Ave and W. Logan St.)
Philadelphia, PA 19144

5. Friends of Loudon
4650 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

6. Neighborhood and Park Cleanup (DIA Clean Up)
Wayne & Johnson Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

7. Germantown Town Hall Cleanup
Germantown City Hall
Germantown and Haines St
Philadelphia PA, PA 19119

8. 6100 Block Germantown Avenue
Cleanup Historic 1770 Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse
6121 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

9. Rockand Street Neighbors
15 W Rockland Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144

10. CHEW and BELFIELD NEIGHBORS CLUB, INC
6200 W. Chew Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19138

Read more

Attend: SW Germantown PhillyRising Meeting, Thursday, March 27

Coming up! Get involved in PhillyRising and help shape Germantown’s future.

Learn more about what PhillyRising means for the neighborhood.

PR meeting pic

Blooming Sidewalks: Greening the Urban Street

The sidewalk planter in front of our house!

The sidewalk planter in front of our house!

You may have noticed West Rockland Street has a lot of flower planters lining the sidewalk. You’d almost think you were walking along Germantown Avenue in the Chestnut Hill business district 🙂 So how did it happen?

Last year, a few households planted pots and set them out. Initially there was some fear that the planters would be stolen, broken or wrecked by kids. But, that didn’t happen.

This spring, Aine included sidewalk planters as a packaged item in the annual Grow This Block! planting day and a few more households joined the beautification effort. The idea really started to catch on as participation grew. Other residents admired the work of their neighbors and by mid-summer, more households joined the sidewalk planter club.

There are now over a fifteen planters lining the block, including five pots along the perimeter of the vacant lot at the corner of West Rockland and Greene Streets. To make the planters durable, residents weighted the pots down with heavy rocks and planted a variety of heat loving annuals. Three households also planted empty tree pits with full sidewalk gardens. Amazingly green!

Looking up West Rockland Street.

Looking up West Rockland Street.

Flower planters and sidewalk gardens are a motivating tool against blight and help brighten up the neighborhood. By setting beautiful examples and making it easy for people to get involved, we were able to get high participation. Aine purchased supplies in bulk and made a package deal (see the flyer below). For just $20, residents could purchase a planter with potting soil, plants, and rocks for the bottom. Residents then planted their own pots, which inspired people be creative and take ownership of their hard work.

Our planter packages were offered at a discount thanks to donations and support from a 2013 Philadelphia Activities Grant, awarded to the block by Councilwoman Cindy Bass. You can also reduce costs by buying in bulk, growing plants from seed and keeping an eye out for sales. If the sidewalk planter project can work on a little block in Southwest Germantown, then it can work anywhere. Get a few neighbors growing and create demand.

SEE A FULL GALLERY OF PHOTOS ON FLICKR!

JuJu biking by Aine's planter.

JuJu biking by Aine’s planter. Photo by Ann Doley.

Aine and Jamir tending our flower pot.

Aine and Jamir tending our flower pot.

2013.07.19_Rockland Street Planters Flyer

Download a PDF of the flyer.

Cobblestones rescued from Germantown Avenue construction

Cobblestones rescued from Germantown Avenue construction.

A new sidewalk garden grows. In the fall, a new street tree will be planted in its place.

A new sidewalk garden grows. In the fall, a new street tree will be planted in its place.

Cleanup Philadelphia with A Litter Scavenger Hunt

On August 4, we pitched a tent and signed up about 15 kids who were out and about on the block, ranging in age from 3 to 13.

Kids worked solo and in pairs with names like Team Bomb, Cool Kids and Star Girls. Armed with a list of commonly littered items from cigarette butts to fast food packaging to bonuses like clothing, the kids set out to collect trash discarded on the sidewalk, in the street and in the block’s vacant lots.

The list!

The almighty list! See the full list up-close.

Donning neon vests and plastic gloves, the sleuths stormed up and down the block quickly filling their plastic grocery store bags with litter of all kinds.

Not before long, the kids rushed back to the tent with bags unfortunately bursting with garbage to have their bounty scanned and sorted. The organizing crew spread out the litter collection on a table and examined all the different elements while matching the items to the lists.

Displaying and sorting all that litter was the most important part of the experience. Kids got to see just what kind of trash was all over our block.

At the end of the day, the kids received prizes, temporary tattoos and hot dogs.

Game for just about anything, children play a big role in cleanups across Philadelphia and their involvement in beautifying their own neighborhoods helps change behavior. The scavenger hunt is an easy and very low cost activity that you can do on your block!

To drive home the anti-litter message with the adult set, West Rockland Street also organizes block cleanups throughout the year and participates in the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee‘s (PMBC) official district cleanups and the Streets Department’s annual Philly Spring Cleanup.

After the cleanup, the children of West Rockland Street offered these suggestions on how to keep the block clean:

  1. “When you see a piece of trash on the ground, don’t walk by, just pick it up” – Harmony, 11
  2. “No spitting” – Ahjanayah, 11
  3. “Cleanup with brooms” – Kevon, 9
  4. “Use the trashcan” – Shaquille, 12
  5. “Sweep the porch” – Khadiera, 11
  6. “When you see someone litter ask them to pick it up” – Lamont, 10
  7. “No litter” – Alan,12
  8. “Pick up stuff and put it in the trash” – Shireef, 6
  9. “Clean up once a week” – Yahmina, 7
  10.  “Sweep the sidewalks on the block” –Indiya, 8

SEE A FULL GALLERY OF PHOTOS ON FLICKR!

Rockland St in Action: Block Cleanup, Aug. 3, Block Meeting, Aug. 6

This weekend, W Rockland Street will participate in the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee’s monthly district cleanup. Come out and spruce up the block on Saturday, August 3 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. There will be a special kids activity in front of the DePaul Catholic School in the afternoon!

All residents of W Rockland Street and nearby neighbors who participate in our programs are also invited to the next Block Meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, August 6 at 6 p.m. outside on the school steps of the DePaul Catholic School. One of the big issues we’ll be discussing is the incident that occurred on W Rockland Street on Monday, July 29, which unfortunately drew numerous police and choppers to the scene (read more about that on NewsWorksWHYY).  If you don’t come out, no one hear’s your voice. Be there!

Flyer: Block Meeting August 6

Flyer: Block Cleanup August 3

« Older Entries