Philadelphia Is Transforming Vacant Lots into Climate-Resilient Pollinator Gardens

About This Episode

Vacant lots make up nearly 17 percent of land in U.S. cities. A history of disinvestment has contributed to a significant overlap between neighborhoods with the highest concentration of vacant lots and those most threatened by the impacts of climate change.

In Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) teamed up to solve this multipronged issue — one involving urban blight, community health, and a climate that's becoming hotter and wetter. Building on the Philadelphia LandCare Program, their joint pilot project transforms vacant lots into climate-resilient pollinator gardens, using plants that are native to the region and thus better able to adapt to changing conditions. Philadelphia residents in two neighborhoods now enjoy access to nature much closer to home. The development of this green infrastructure is also opening economic doors for community members by providing skills training and creating jobs.

In this episode of the APA Podcast, planning and community health manager Sagar Shah speaks with two people close to the project: Jen Mihills, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center at the NWF; and Samir Dalal, planning manager of the Philadelphia LandCare Program at the PHS. Throughout their comprehensive discussion, which began with the 2021 National Planning Conference session Nature-Based Solutions for Creating Climate Resilient Communities, they provide actionable advice to planners looking to use similarly low-cost but high-impact solutions in their communities.

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