Over the past several months, Clean Currents has hosted Lots of Power — an initiative bringing together students and professional designers and architects to develop innovative concepts for specific vacant lots in Kensington. Two winning projects were recently chosen and profiled in the Philadelphia Inquirer. This fall, they will come to life — transforming two lots from vacant to vibrant.
Below Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents President, reflects on Kensington and the Lots of Power program.
First the factories closed down, and the families of those workers moved out along with the jobs. Kensington is no longer the thriving Philadelphia neighborhood it once was. However, like the first shoots of a new tree sprouting in a forest devastated by wildfire, hope is returning slowly, but strong and determined. Clean Currents’ Lots of Power program is a small contribution to the momentum of a community set in motion. We hope it will add sparks to a new wave of life and positive change in this community while preserving the character and the nature of the place its current residents call home.
Kensington sits just five miles from Center City, easily accessible by train or car. Yet, on a recent tour of the area, I was stunned at the sharp contrast between life in this corner of town and life in other parts of the city, including our office in Rittenhouse Square. My first introduction to the neighborhood was a police and DEA raid on a corner house that was supposedly a local drug den.
Walking to my meeting with Jamie Moffett, a passionate community activist and head of the group Kensington Renewal I passed several boarded up row houses that were no longer homes. The once thriving main boulevard looked deserted in the middle of the morning, with 75% of the businesses boarded up. There was no super market readily accessible or local community café. There were no garbage cans, actually, so garbage was blowing with the wind up and down the streets. There were barely any trees to provide cover from the sun, or any life giving energy from nature.
However, Jamie showed me around and I started to get a sense of the local community pride and the hope that is returning. He showed me trees that he and his neighbors planted on their street and a new hops garden he’s tending in a once vacant lot. We walked past Phoenix Park, which is being reclaimed with the help of local community group Impact Services, the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, and the people of Kensington. And he showed me the two locations that will be transformed from un-safe, overgrown and garbage strewn vacant lots to the beautiful community space designs of the winning teams in the Clean Currents Lots of Power program.
Clean Currents is a for profit company, working each day to switch customers to clean energy and grow our business. But we are also driven to energize communities for a cleaner, greener future. It starts by helping to address vacant lots in Philadelphia, an issue identified by many city residents as a serious problem in the city. But it doesn’t end there. We want to work with Kensington Renewal, Impact Services, community residents, and Philadelphia businesses to invest in a better future for Kensington and the city of Philadelphia.
Learn more about Lots of Power and the winning projects at www.lotsofpower.net