Some people would love to have their property sit on multiple acres of empty land. Vast fields, rolling meadows, trees—it sounds ideal, but Dr Donald Turner has been fighting to have his medical office relocated from such a setting for over 25 years. His reason for wanting to move is justified: the vacant land is the largest blighted area in the city.
The Logan Triangle is 35 acres of overgrown weeds and litter. During the area’s construction in the early 1900s, the Wingohocking Creek had to be filled in. The city chose to fill the valley with ash instead of proper landfill, which eventually led to the sinking foundations of hundreds of houses. By the 1980s the problem was so severe that the entire area was condemned and the residents were relocated.
Turner’s office stands alone on its block. From the exterior, the white windowless rectangle could be mistaken for an abandoned building. A closer look at the Courtland Street Medical sign reveals that the practice is in fact “Still Open.”
Though not abandoned, Turner was in a sense left behind. In the late 1980s, when the removal of the houses commenced, Turner’s building was spared. “My building should have been one of the first to go,” he says. Houses sat directly next to and across the street from his office. “This whole street was houses!” he exclaims, pointing to a cement path that now sinks into an empty field.
As residents were moved out, the houses were left vacant and became hot spots for criminal mischief. When they were eventually torn down, things got even worse. Turner’s office fell victim to numerous crimes. “People have drilled through the ceiling and climbed in through the back window,” he explains, “they want pills, once one of them had a gun.”
“MAYOR GOODE THOUGHT MY WHITE FRIENDS WOULD HELP ME,” reads a sign on top of Courtland Street Medical, the font larger than that used on billboard advertisements. “Mayor Goode moved all the African-American residents and left me,” says Turner, “an injustice is an injustice, no matter what color you are.” Goode did not provide the same deal to Turner that he did to the residents. Turner says he was given a cold shoulder because he never made contributions to Goode’s administration.
When Goode left office nothing changed. The Rendell and Street administrations were wrapped up in a personal rivalry with Councilwoman Marion Tasco, who represents Logan. “They didn’t get along so nothing happened,” says Turner. He rustles through a manila folder full of court documents, police reports and correspondence to city officials, finally pulling out an old news article. It reads: “Mayor, Tasco, still at odds over Logan assistance.” The article goes on to confirm the doctor’s story.
“One time a cancer patient fell in a sinkhole,” says Turner, “I thought they’d shut me down for sure.” After the fall, the patient never walked again. She died soon after. Turner wasn’t shut down. And he won’t be. Government interest in the Logan Triangle has dwindled. Turner says judges just sigh when he presents his case. Nonetheless, the doctor is still passionate, but he admits the road has been draining: “It’s difficult, after a while it becomes depressing.”