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Transform a Property

After gaining access to the property, you can transform a property to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.

A Philadelphia lot before a clean up and the same lot, filled with trees and greenery after a clean up.

Basic Interventions

The original research that Clean & Green Philly is based on promotes “cleaning and greening.” This includes removing trash, grading the land, planting trees, installing low fences, and maintaining the property. These are low-cost interventions and have been proven to be highly effective; even something as simple as picking up trash can have a big impact.

Clean Garbage & Debris

Organizing a community clean-up or hiring a waste removal service to clean a property enhances its appearance, improves residents' mental health, and eliminates potential hazards.

Cost: Low
Upkeep: None

Plant Trees

Planting trees not only adds beauty and shade to the property but also contributes to urban cooling, cleaner air, and habitat for wildlife.

Cost: Low
Upkeep: Low

Maintain Regularly

Mowing grass, raking leaves, and clearing trash regularly ensures the lot remains clean, safe, and attractive, promoting community pride and deterring illegal activities.

Cost: Low
Upkeep: Low

Install Low Fences

Hiring a contractor to install low fences defines boundaries, enhances safety, and improves aesthetics while allowing for easy access and integration with the neighborhood.

Cost: Medium
Upkeep: Low

Advanced Interventions

Different properties have different opportunities and different challenges. Some properties might be a great spot for a rain garden but not for a playground. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to start a community garden in a vacant lot that doesn’t get any sun. To better understand what your options are for a specific property, try filling out the Detroit Future City vacant property quiz (the recommendations work for Philadelphia, too). It’s meant to help users understand the best options for their specific properties. Also, remember to think about other constraints, like how much funding you have, and how much maintenance you’re willing or able to do.

With funding and community support, there are many ways to transform a vacant property. We list several ideas below.

Plant Pollinator Garden

Creating a pollinator garden promotes biodiversity and beautifies the lot with colorful flowers.

Establish a Community Garden

Establishing a community garden provides fresh produce, promotes social interaction, and transforms the lot into a vibrant space for residents.

Plant a Meadow

Planting native wildflowers and grasses brings natural beauty, supports local wildlife, and requires less maintenance than traditional landscaping.

Install Bike Parking

Installing bike parking encourages sustainable transportation, reduces traffic, and supports a healthier lifestyle for community members.

Install Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Rain gardens and other infrastructure reduces stormwater runoff, prevents flooding, and improves water quality while adding greenery to the landscape.

Offer Outdoor Restaurant Space

Providing seating and shade to restaurants supports local business while creating a dynamic street life.

Affordable Housing

Developing affordable housing helps address Philadelphia's housing crisis and can combat gentrification by enabling residents to stay in their neighborhood.

Install a Park

Providing seating, green spaces, and walking paths offers recreational space, improves public health, and enhances quality of life.

Get Help

Many organizations in Philadelphia offer support transforming vacant properties. Currently, we list a handful here. We hope to add more documentation for this in the future.

Park in a Truck

Park in a Truck supports community residents in quickly building custom parks. They’ve developed a toolkit that helps community groups design and build parks that fit their needs. They also offer training and technical support to help communities create and maintain their parks.

Park in a Truck

Jump Start

Jump Start is a community-oriented lender that offers acquisition and construction financing for residential and mixed-use investment projects throughout the City of Philadelphia. They provide mentorship and training to Black and Brown developers to help them succeed in a competitive real estate market while also reducing blight, building local wealth, and encouraging a mix of affordable and market-rate housing in historically neglected neighborhoods.

Jump Start

Local Representatives

Your local representatives will be crucially allies in helping you push your project forward and cut through red tape. Contact them with an explanation of what you want to do and why, and ask for their support. They can help you navigate the legal process, find funding, and connect you with other resources.

City Council Directory

Additional Considerations


Getting funding is a vital part of returning vacant properties to productive use. Funding can come from many sources, such as grants from local government and non-profit funders, public-private partners, and crowd-sourced fundraising. In the future, we plan to add a page to list common funding sources and explain how to use data from Clean & Green Philly to support a grant application.

Any amount of funding can be useful. Many effective interventions such as property cleanups can be accomplished for a few hundred dollars—or even for free, with volunteer support! When planning your property intervention, consider what level of funding you have access to, and how you can get the most bang for your buck.

Funding is needed not only for the initial property transformation, but also to maintain the project in the long term. When planning your project, consider dividing your funding into two parts: one part to pay for the initial intervention, and a second part—at least equal to the first part—to pay for maintaining your project in the future.


Transforming a vacant property isn’t a one-and-done event. In fact, many properties that are currently vacant were transformed years ago—but not maintained in the decades since. In order to make sure that your intervention is high-impact and long-lived, make sure to have a maintenance plan in place.

Consider who will be responsible for maintaining the property, what their tasks will be, what kind of resources they will need, and how you will fund this ongoing maintenance. Often, partnering with an established organization like a CDC can help make sure that you have the capacity and resources needed to ensure that your intervention continues to be effective for many years into the future.


Our goal is to help community groups reduce violence through cleaning and greening in their neighborhoods. We recognize that this may lead to increased property values and rental prices, which can put already-marginalized Philadelphians at risk of displacement. To understand how we’re working to mitigate the risk of “green gentrification,” click here to read more.