Kensington: Summer Program Aims to Beautify Vacant Lots

Neighbors express excitement for what will come of this vacant lot on the 1900 block of Hagert Street, saying that the clean up of vacant lots has been helping the value of their homes.

Philadelphia is home to more than 40,000 vacant lots across the city, many of which are found in Kensington. This summer, the program “Lots of Power” will give high school students the opportunity to team up with seasoned professionals to create beauty from the overgrown lots of Kensington.

Created by green energy initiative Clean Currents, “Lots of Power” is a mentor-based program that challenges high school students from Kensington and beyond to develop creative and inventive ways to re-purpose vacant lots throughout the neighborhood. By reaching out to schools and teachers, students will team up with architects, designers and other professionals during a six-week period to create a constructive space out of otherwise empty properties.

“Lots of Power” will be working with Jamie Moffett’s Kensington Renewal, a program that transforms blighted properties into habitable homes as well as other local, sustainable living organizations such as Grid Magazine and the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.

Resident enjoys Little Berlin’s “Fairgrounds,” once a vacant lot and now home to art sculptures and community gardens.

Another recent program, art collective Little Berlin’s “Fairgrounds,” recently transformed an empty property on York and Emerald Streets into an outdoor garden and art installation.

These transformation projects have improved the general living condition of the neighborhood, according to Kensington resident Lillian Kaycoya. “I love it,” she said about these ideas. “Art can truly be beautiful in this neighborhood.”

Barbera Beck, a media consultant for Clean Currents, finds Lots of Power to be a dual-purpose program.

“Kensington is particularly home to many vacant lots, but there is a strong desire among the community to address this,” she said, while noting the program’s additional source of positivity by engaging the city’s students in constructive activity during their summer break from school.

“If there is one thing that Americans seem to agree on, it is that millions of children need guidance from positive adult role models,” she said in reference to “Lots of Power’s” mentor-ship angle.

Another lot stays chained up and over grown at the corner of Front and Lee Streets, existing as an eyesore and dumping ground for trash.

“Teen participants will … gain real-world experience using design thinking to communicate their ideas and take positive action in their communities.”

By the end of the six-week program, a panel of judges will choose the two best design concepts created by mentor-student teams. Each winning student will receive a grant of at least $2,000 to implement their design ideas.

Beck instills the fact that Clean Currents is simply not another faceless corporate entity when talking about “Lots of Power,” insisting that they have “become a part of the community by supporting the community. The benefits—to us, to them, to the environment—are incalculable.”


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