Philadelphia, once the colonial capital and an industrial hub, has been buffeted by 50 years of economic downturns. As the jobs left, so did the people. Once a city of 2 million, it now has fewer than 1.5 million.
Although the Center City is undergoing a renaissance, urban ﬂight over several generations has left 40,000 abandoned and derelict parcels of lands where thriving factories, businesses, and homes once stood. Vacant lots attract dumping, harbor toxic chemicals, depress property values, and attract criminal activity, contributing to a downward spiral in the quality of life.
In 1995, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), best known for the Philadelphia Flower Show, decided to form a partnership with the City through its Philadelphia Green program to address urban decay. The city’s Ofﬁce of Housing and Urban Development supported the project with federal Community Development Block Grant funds. Restoration focused on “clean and green”, using a simple combination of grass, trees, and wood fencing. In 2003, the City adopted the Philadelphia Green Program’s Green City Strategy and invested $4 million to launch a full scale effort, directing city agencies to provide additional support. The PHS garnered private foundation and corporate funds to support the massive greening effort by improving community parks, gardens, and public spaces.