Philadelphia LandCare

Philadelphia LandCare

Pairing basic landscaping and site improvements with maintenance services for the creation of public open spaces on otherwise vacant lots

Targeted within specific “transitional neighborhoods” in Philadelphia (see map)

Sponsoring Institution
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) in contract with the City of Philadelphia
Key Milestones
PHS launches its pilot of LandCare model in two neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
LandCare pilot program concludes.
PHS launches the citywide LandCare program.
PHS pilots the Roots to Re-Entry project for formerly incarcerated residents.
PHS pilots the Roots to Re-Entry project for formerly incarcerated residents.
The city of Philadelphia increases its financial support for both LandCare and Roots to Re-Entry.
Financial Implications
  • Received $15.3 million in public investment between 2003 and 2012
  • Expanded Roots to Re-Entry with $500,000 in support from the city    
  • Partnered with municipal Division of Housing and Community Development to pilot incentives for private and nonprofit landscape contractors to hire formerly incarcerated individuals

Select Models Goals

  1. Improve quality of life
  2. Redevelop and improve neighborhoods
  3. Remediate blight
Implementation: Model Design
  • The treatment of vacant parcels establishes a citywide “brand” for a scattered-site community asset with a relatively novel form. The program’s trademark wooden post-and-rail fence marks the site as a community amenity and discourages dumping.
  • Contractors for the program clean, grade, and seed vacant lots.
  • The program operates on both public and privately owned land: The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections grants PHS right of entry to abate nuisance on private property if the owner does not respond to a citation. 
  • The City of Philadelphia contracts with the nonprofit PHS, which designed and operates the LandCare program with additional philanthropic support.
  • In 2010, the program grew to include the related Roots to Re-Entry reintegration initiative for formerly incarcerated Philadelphia residents. This has cut the recidivism rate of its participants, who, prior to release, complete a landscape training certificate program. Upon release, participants begin a six-week internship with PHS and receive additional job placement support, housing, and education.
Key Innovations

By addressing a shortage of green space in high-vacancy neighborhoods, the program repositions vacant properties from liabilities into community assets. Research has shown that the intervention is associated with reduced levels of stress for residents adjoining the intervention and with reduction of certain crimes—including gun assaults citywide. The intervention is temporary by design: While the program has improved more than 12,000 parcels, at least 1,600 have subsequently been developed for other uses.

Staffing and/or CapacityPHS contracts with local landscape contractors for work on most of the parcels and partners with approximately 18 community organizations who in turn contract with local residents. 

Strategies Utilized

See also
Cleveland, OH

A technical assistance and low-interest financing program that helps homeowners improve and maintain the physical and economic value of older homes

St. Louis, MO

Measuring racial disparities across 72 indicators to inform data-driven policy making in the City of St. Louis

Rochester, NY

Promotional and branding program to strengthen the housing market in the Triangle neighborhood of North Winton Village, a target middle neighborhood in Rochester

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