The most well-maintained vacant lots in Philadelphia have been identified — as well as the worst eyesore — in a citywide contest organized by supporters of the Take Back Vacant Land campaign.

The campaign is driven by organizations such as Disabled in Action, Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, and Women's Community Revitalization Project, among others, to encourage people to renovate and maintain abandoned lots in their neighborhoods.

"The contest was another way to spotlight the tremendous work that people have done quietly in their own neighborhoods, fighting to get vacant land that nobody else wants," said Nancy Salandra with Disabled in Action. "It was also a way to showcase the horrible lots. And it's just the tip of the iceberg."

The Best Lot award went to Pearl Brown, who hosted campaign organizers for a winning announcement event in her "Garden Oasis" Tuesday.

Brown says she first started working on the vacant lot next to her home 20 years ago.

"Years ago, when I first applied ... they were giving away lots for a dollar," said Brown. "You could only get two."

The vacant space was worth three lots.

Years later, Brown applied to get the third lot, but by that time, the city was charging too much. She negotiated with the city for eight years before the lot was hers.

"A lot of these lots have been vacant for a mighty long time," said Brown. "It's not fair that when someone gets it and tries to make it look pretty that [the city] wants to appraise it on that person's back."

The organizers of the Take Back Vacant Land campaign praised Brown's persistence with the city, but agree the process should not have been so hard.

The campaign advocates a proposal supported by Philadelphia council members Maria Quiñones-Sanchez and Bill Green.

The proposal would create a land bank in the city, making it easier for citizens to take over vacant lots in their neighborhood and renovate them. For instance, a lot could be sold at a reduced price if its renovation were predicted to have a positive community impact.

Campaign organizers insist the vacant lots are an eyesore –- and they're urging city officials to turn them over to residents willing to fix them up.

 

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