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Philadelphia Conference Spotlights Problem of Vacant Urban Properties

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(Jill Feldstein of Women’s Community Revitalization Project  describes what her group has done about blight in East North Philadelphia during a panel at the National Reclaiming Vacant Property Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Jill Feldstein of Women’s Community Revitalization Project describes what her group has done about blight in East North Philadelphia during a panel at the National Reclaiming Vacant Property Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Blighted, vacant properties have created huge problems in Philadelphia.  And our city is not alone.

Planners and activists from around the country are gathering this week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for a national “Reclaiming Vacant Property” conference.

When two Philadelphia firefighters died last year in a blaze at the Buck Hosiery building (see related story), the city’s attention was focused on the dangers of vacant, unsecured buildings held by absentee, tax-delinquent landlords.

A year and a half later, the lot sits empty, and the owner is the same.

“That is, unfortunately, a pretty common (occurrence),” says Michael Brady of the Center for Community Progress, the conference sponsor.

And Brady says that’s exactly the sort of problem the conference wants to address: “bringing people to share the common challenges and then thinking about what’s working in one community, maybe it could work in another.”

One idea that Philadelphia government and community leaders are embracing is a so-called “land bank.” Legislation in City Council would create one, allowing quicker transfer of properties like the Buck factory.

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