Follow Up: Logan Orchard and Market Public Planning Meeting

The latest public meeting to discuss the future of the Logan neighborhood was intense.  70+ people showed up, representing the Logan neighborhood, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), and the Logan neighborhood’s councilwoman, Cindy Bass’s,  office.  The meeting was organized by Paul Glover, and moderated by Scott Quitel and Rachael Griffith of the Land Health Institute.  In my previous post about this project, I mistakenly said that this was Paul Glover’s project, however, this was an incorrect statement.  Logan neighborhood agencies have been seeking action for almost 30 years.  Glover’s proposal merely merges longstanding neighborhood demands for fresh food, affordable housing, recreation, open space, and healthcare.  Sorry for my confusion!

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Preliminary site sketch of the full 35 acres and Glover’s proposal for the Logan Orchard and Market. Yellow are greenhouses, little beads are solar cabins, blue squares are food processors, orange is free clinic, brown is market pavilion.

In the meeting, the community surrounding the Logan open space were able to voice their opinions about the past, and future of the space.  The common outcry from the community to officials was, “Where have you been?”  The number one concern from the neighborhood seemed to be that the Redevelopment Authority is not being open with the planning and development process, which has eliminated any trust between them and the community.  Even more upsetting is the fact that the Redevelopment Authority is funded with taxpayer dollars.  The community is paying for the testing and surveying of the land with their taxes, but they aren’t allowed access to the findings. Another concern is that the Redevelopment Authority has not been managing the land sufficiently.  Residents complained of garbage piles and overgrown shrubbery that degrades the quality of life in the community.  If the Redevelopment Authority claims to own the land, and wants to help the community, why are they letting the space go to the dumps?

Paul Glover urged the community to claim moral ownership by organizing and working together.  While this might be a dubious idea to the current owners of the land (the Redevelopment Authority), it’s not so far-fetched considering the recent history of the land.  I learned at the meeting that prior to 2012, much of the space was owned by the Logan Community Development Corporation, a community-run organization.  When the Logan CDC ran out of resources to sustain itself, the land was taken by the Redevelopment Authority by Eminent Domain. (the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation).  The Redevelopment Authority had been working with the Logan CDC on a plan to develop the space.  The community had been working with the Logan CDC to make sure their opinions were incorporated into the plan.  However, now that the Logan CDC is no more, the Redevelopment Authority plans on finishing the plan originally developed with the Logan CDC.  This appears fine at first, the Redevelopment Authority will complete a plan that had community input.  However, the Redevelopment Authority has been working with anonymous developers, and performing site analysis on the safety of the property without releasing any of this information to the community.

Paul Glover and the Land Health Institute are working on developing their own plan for the space. Kirtrina Baxter, a community organizer with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, was one of the meeting’s attendees.  She explains, “The LOAM project proposal, originally was a concept of Paul Glover’s with the community in mind. It allowed for community collaboration & input throughout. Paul has been actively working with the community to include what they would like to see in this project, therefore making it a more of a community effort. Over the past 30 years the Logan community has participated in various such proposals, though because of economic challenges, nothing has been realized.”

However, many people in the audience said that they’re tired of hearing plans, and they want real action to take place on the site.  A critical step to the future of this space will be the unification of the community behind one plan.  Not only Glover’s LOAM plan, not only the Redevelopment Authority’s plan, but a unified plan of which the community can support and take ownership.  This is going to require the neighborhood to take action into their own hands, and for the Redevelopment Authority to open up communication and transparency, and to loosen their grip on control of the space.

In the short-term, Glover encouraged neighborhood residents to plant a pocket park, where they can start a small garden and community space.  If the Redevelopment Authority wants to come in and kick over the flowers planted by the community, it will only bring more attention to the future of this community space.  If relationships can be mended, this has the potential to be an amazing project for the community, and the city as a whole.

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