Liberty Lands

913-961 North 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA

Submitted by: Patrice Carroll

Two-acre park reclaimed from vacant urban land, featuring a community garden, local artwork, a children's playground, and other amenities.

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Why It Works

As the only large public greenspace in the neighborhood, Liberty Lands is central to the social life of this diverse community. Dog owners, parents, gardeners, workers, business owners, and artists have come together to plan, build and enjoy this special place. Because of limited resources and its grassroots development, Liberty Lands is not formal but reflects the contributions of local residents. Everyone is welcome and made to feel comfortable. The park is competely accessible to the public. Although the community garden area is fenced, it is not locked. Theft, vandalism and crime have been minor and managable.

The long list of amenities includes:

  • fully subscribed community garden with 37 plots
  • park benches and entry arbor
  • a Native American herb garden
  • children's playground
  • a butterfly garden
  • picnic benches
  • composting area
  • stone retaining walls
  • "Never at Rest" mural featuring birds and bees
  • sculpture by neighborhood artists
  • 180 trees of varying species

The park is a short walk for most residents. For those outside the neighborhood, the park is accessible by elevated railline and bus. Liberty Lands is the largest of a series of community gardens and private gardens reclaimed form vacant urban land in this old industiral community. It is a few blocks from the Delaware Riverfront where many hope there will be access and a greenway in the future.

What Makes Liberty Lands a Great Place?

The park is a short walk for most residents. For those outside the neighbohrood, the park is accessible by elevated railine and bus. Liberty lands is the largest of a series of community gardens and private gardens reclaimed form vacant urban land in this old industrial community. It is a few blocks from the Delaware Riverfront, where many hope there will be access and a greenway in the future.

Because of limited resources and its grassroots development, Liberty Lands is not formal, but reflects the contributions of local residents. Everyone is welcome and made to feel comfortable. The park is competely accessible to the public. Although the community garden area is fenced, it is not locked. Theft, vandlism and crime have been minor and manageable.

Today Liberty Lands is the heart of a revitalizing community. It continues to be owned and managed by the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association without operating or maintenance support from the City. In addition to ongoing educational workshops, the park hosts an array of community events- Halloween Hayrides, Welcome America Neighborhood Festival, Annual Garden Tour and Birdhouse Silent Action, summer outdoor movie series.

As the only large public greenspace in the neighbhrood, Liberty Lands is central to the social life of this diverse community. Dog owners, parents, gardeners, workers, business owners, and artists have come together to plan, build and enoy this special place.

History & Background

Northern Liberties was the only zip code in Philadelphia without a green community space. The site, previously known as the American Street Tannery, was the site of two EPA removal projects in 1987 and 1990. Plans to convert the vacant factory to loft housing fell short and the developer donated it to the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association in 1995. A group of community residents began dreaming of a park.

The goal of the Liberty Lands project was to create a multi-use open space on this two-acre former Superfund site. The park would feature community garden plots, a perimeter of trees, a large open central area for community events and festivals, a mural and a farmers market. The vision took hold in 1996 with a $59,000 grant from the Philadelphia Urban Resources Partnership. The community has made tremendous progress towards this vision. Before work began, EPA provided $15,000 worth of soil testing and other assistance to ensure this former Superfund site could be safely developed for green space.

Today Liberty Lands is the heart of a revitalizing community. It continues to be owned and managed by the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association without operating or maintenance support from the City. In addition to ongoing educational workshops, the park hosts an array of community events- Halloween Hayrides, Welcome America Neighborhood Festival, Annual Garden Tour and Birdhouse Silent Action, summer outdoor movie series. In 1999 the City of Philadelphia forgave the $500,000 demolition lien giving the community clear title. But, work continues. The community is raising money to construct a children's play area. Philadelphia Urban Resources Partnership awarded the project a second grant of $36,000 in September 1999 to address soil erosion problems on the site.

Contact Info:

Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, 215-627-6562
Janet Finegar and Liz Reed, co-coordinators

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