This Could Be A Park

Photo: Katrina Ohstrom

Image: Workshop of the World

The skyline of smokestacks long evaporating, East Kensington, particularly, is left with massive vacant lots (one in five parcels in the neighborhood is vacant). At the same time, aside from Norris Square on the other side of the El, there is little available public space. This sign was put up by a neighborhood artist on the site of the former Hart and Foster dye and finishing mill, at York and Emerald.

East Kensington Neighbors Association completed a preliminary plan for these parcels last year (click to the plan HERE) and this year in conjunction with the City Planning Commission will launch a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission-funded neighborhood plan. Says Amy Miller of EKNA, “One element of this plan will include designing potential scenarios for the ‘megalots,’ including options for reuse (at least in part) as open space (such as a dog park and/or multipurpose field). Since the lots are privately-owned, there are no guarantees or expectations for this vision to actually be realized at this point.”

For a 2008 article of mine, “It Really Could Be Something,” with a rendering for this lot by architect Michael Burlando, click HERE.

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About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."


  1. I don’t see the need for another park 3 blocks from Norris Square. The space could be better used in other ways.

  2. Hey this is a really great start, but shouldn’t we be more thorough?
    please consider making more signs for residents to have to read every

    -you could feel comfortable walking near this lot without mace
    -you could have nice shoes
    -you could have spare time to read for pleasure
    -you could walk on a treadmill instead of to work
    -you could eat fresh food for one day rather than mac n cheese for twelve days
    -you could get a job that makes you happy every day
    -you could go to the Dr. and get well
    -you could have a big family that loves and accepts you
    -you could drive your car somewhere far away
    -you could turn the heat up and take your jacket off
    -you could place all the stray cats and dogs in comfortable homes

    to close you could write something like ‘in the time it took me to
    make this sign, I could have cleaned up 9 dozen syringes, but I didnt
    because -who would notice-‘”

  3. This could also be a factory, or workshops which would provide employment that people in East Kensington desperately need. A singular focus on parks only serves to decrease the supply of land for homes and businesses, thereby driving up land values and creating something dangerously close to the type of gentrification No Libs has experienced.

    This could be a whole lot more than a park.

  4. I am just concerned that we will become a bedroom community where people who make over $100K a year can afford to live is a gorgeous place with loads of recreational opportunities and fun community events, but folks earning less than that get displaced because property values rise too much as a result of the higher earners paying top dollar to clever realtors and driving up values. Its an unsustainable model, we need all basic types of uses in our neighborhood (com, ind, res), and we need to retain some degree of affordability.

    We also have more pressing issues than recreational space. We need jobs, we need to stop the pill epidemic, we need to hammer on quality of life crimes like graffiti, litter and short dumping. All of these things are more important that creating more green space, which we already have a half decent amount of in close proximity.

    Parks don’t give people jobs, they don’t teach kids why its important not to littler, and they don’t replace parents who are to high on oxycotin to nurture their children.


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