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For the record: Grogan's comments

  • Subject: [cg] For the record: Grogan's comments
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 13:34:34 -0800 (PST)

Hi all,

I'm a great believer in getting the whole story, so
here is the piece Denise refers to. Pretty puzzling,
so I've asked Mr. Groman (interesting name for a
gardener) to explain. I'll share anything I get from
him. His receptionist, Betty, was pretty terse with

I'll reserve judgment until Groman has a chance to
express what he was thinking. Does he really intend to
spend a cool million bucks on fescue and Bradford
pears? That's going to help? The reporter's expression
'oddly suburban' is pretty apt.


Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

Here's the story, from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

D A simple plan to greener, cleaner urban lots

Philadelphia Green will use the $1 million raised at
the Flower Show to help clear and reclaim blighted

By Matthew P. Blanchard

Inquirer Staff Writer

The mind of Mike Groman left the Philadelphia Flower
Show for a moment yesterday and traveled a short
distance to the city's wasted land.

Not so far from these lush plant displays, he said,
Philadelphia has 31,000 vacant lots heaped with trash
and despair. This land must be reclaimed if the city
is to prosper, he said. Every ticket bought at the
Flower Show last week will help him do it.

Groman, 46, heads a program called Philadelphia Green,
which is the sole beneficiary of the $1 million raised
by ticket sales at the Flower Show. The show ended
yesterday after drawing an estimated 250,000 to the
Convention Center.

Now Groman's real work begins. During the spring
planting season, Philadelphia Green will reclaim 1,000
urban lots with a strategy that is strikingly simple
and oddly suburban.

The program, part of the Pennsylvania Horticultural
Society, which runs the flower show, won a $4 million
contract last year from Mayor Street's anti-blight
Neighborhood Transformation Initiative to clean and
seed about one million square feet of land in targeted

The massive task requires a whole new approach to
urban greening, Groman said. The community "pocket"
parks of the 1960s and '70s were too expensive and
rarely maintained. Community gardens are nice but
require too much attention.

Philadelphia Green's answer is simple and cheap. It
clears lots, plants grass, and stabs a few tree
saplings around the perimeter. Lucky lots get
split-rail fences. It has the naked, barren look of a
new suburban development. But in the city, it works.
Neighbors buy the lots as side yards. Developers
suddenly see the site has potential. The total cost is
around $2 per square foot.

"We learned that to prevent dumping on these lots, a
basic level of gardening is better than chain-link
fencing or Jersey barriers," said Patricia Smith,
director of the anti-blight initiative. It's cheaper
to boot.

The work began in the fall planting season, when
Philadelphia Green cleared 700,000 square feet. Next
week, the spring work will focus on six neighborhoods:
Frankford; East Mount Airy; West Philadelphia (north
of Market Street); the American Street corridor
(borders North Philadelphia); and two sections of
North Philadelphia, one near Temple University and
another just north of Girard Avenue.

Such simple interventions can have a huge impact on a
neighborhood, Groman said, because they affect the

He has seen it happen. Some years ago, Philadelphia
Green cleaned a strip of JFK Boulevard near 30th
Street Station where people used to litter.

Now they picnic on the grass. From his fifth-floor
office window on Arch Street, Groman watches people
act out their altered perception of the spot.

"Sometimes newspapers and trash will blow onto it," he
said. "We've seen people reach down and pick up the
newspaper and put it in the trash, which they would
never have done."

Gardening, he said, is a force for good.


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