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A Tale of Two Vacant Lots

27 Apr

It’s probably overstating things to call this a tale. It’s more like two pictures.

These lots are almost directly across from each other on Germantown Avenue.

Germantown Avenue vacant lot -- overgrownGermantown Ave vacant lot - well-kept

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I’m pretty curious about why they are in such different shape. The one on the left, as you can see, is wildly overgrown and littered with trash, not to mention a rather ugly chain-link fence.

The one on the right has an almost farm-like feel to it, with the low wooden fence.

How long have these lots been like this? How much work does it take to keep the nice-looking one in shape? What’s the story behind the overgrown one, and is there an owner who can be held responsible?

More questions than answers at this point. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

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Classical color

27 Apr

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Haas & Hahn mural project in the 2500-2800 blocks of Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia.

MetroPCS store signThere has been a lot of press on both the beauty and the challenges of the project. I am inclined to focus on the former.

I particularly like the way that the artists incorporated the businesses’ existing signs into their artwork. For example, there’s a MetroPCS store that uses purple and orange.

And this Gentle Dental, in blue and white. Gentle Dental sign and mural

The Hair of Elegance salon is definitely my favorite. Hair of Elegance sign and muralSo sunshiny!

People’s fears about gentrification are very real, and some of the media coverage has had a decidedly insulting tone (implying or straight out saying that the area is a “slum”).

But you don’t have to buy into an impoverished or stereotyped view of North Philadelphia in order to acknowledge that everyone deserves beauty in their lives.

A while back I had the privilege of hearing Bill Strickland speak about his work in Pittsburgh.

I won’t attempt to summarize his extraordinary accomplishments here, but I will quote him on the importance of making his educational center a beautiful place. (The context is Strickland seeing a Frank Lloyd Wright house for the first time, and being struck by the use of light.)

I thought, “If I could ever bring that light into my neighborhood — bring it to people who deserved it and would respond to it as wholeheartedly and creatively as anybody — then I was home free.”