It’s no secret that Philadelphia has a considerable amount of vacant land. If you read this blog with any regularity, then you’re surely noticed that hardly a day goes by that we don’t mention a vacant lot in some rapidly developing neighborhood that’s being replaced by a new building. The fact that we’ve been doing this for nearly three years with no shortage of new development opportunities on the horizon should give you just a little insight into how much vacant land there is to be found in Philadelphia.

12th and Spring Garden

Then there’s all the vacant land in neighborhoods that aren’t on the development track. Several neighborhoods have acres of vacancy, sometimes only interrupted by empty and blighted buildings. Some of this land is owned privately, some is owned by the City. Of the privately owned land, it’s fair to speculate that much of it is tax delinquent. And even if it went to sheriff’s sale (or PHA auction), buyers aren’t necessarily lining up.

We’re not suggesting that we’re in a Detroit-like situation, but the reality is that we’ve lost half a million in population since 1950, and there’s naturally more space in the city than there are people to occupy it. So what are we supposed to do about this? Enter the 2013 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference.

Broad and Washington

Sponsored by a collaboration between the Center for Community Progress, the Redevelopment Authority, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the conference is an effort to solve the challenges that Philadelphia and other cities face with large supply of vacant land. At the conference, local leaders and speakers with national experience will come together to discuss strategies for dealing with vacant land, both how to manage an existing stock and how to redevelop it with a smart eye toward the future.

19th and Walnut, across from Rittenhouse Square

Of course, a significant part of the discourse is about establishing a Land Bank in Philadelphia, to more efficiently and effectively manage and distribute vacant land. With a theme of “Investing in the Future: Unlocking Hidden Values,” the conference will cover strategies for communities to reduce costs and increase revenues through a coherent vacant land strategy. Apparently, several members of Council will be attendance along with the Mayor, so there’s a chance that some of these lessons could actually be applied to policy in the future.

31st & Thompson, near the new supermarket

The conference runs today and tomorrow at the Convention Center, and costs $400 for someone who works at a nonprofit, $500 for someone who works in the private sector, and $150 for students. If you show up this afternoon, maybe you’ll get a discount?