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In West Philly, reclaiming vacant lots begins with a bulletin board

The community bulletin board at 42nd and Lancaster

An event to celebrate the new public space at 42nd and Lancaster

For West Philly's People’s Emergency Center (PEC), a special partnership with their teenage Community Connectors and the Public Workshop meant an opportunity to serve two major aspects of their mission: keeping locals informed, and activating problematic spaces in a positive way.

The vacant lot at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lancaster Avenue has long been a troubled place, but the youngsters of Community Connectors, an outreach and community organization group, worked throughout the summer to design and build a new picnic table and an attention-getting bulletin board to revamp the site.

"PEC works on getting information to people who don’t have internet," explains Meg Lemieur, a spokesperson for the PEC’s Community Development Corporation. Some people may have access to the web on a phone, but many don’t have it on a home computer.

So how do you keep residents informed about community events without Twitter and Facebook? You rely on the old school way of spreading the word.

The Community Connectors' bulletin board, constructed with the help of Public Workshop, is an all-weather bright orange box with PEC-provided plastic sleeves for anyone who wants to post information there. A November event celebrated the installation.

"It was a freezing-cold day and we had forty or fifty people come out anyway," recalls Lemieur. "There was a large cry-out for more of these [bulletin boards]."

So PEC is setting its sights on placing a second one at another vacant lot one block east; a spring 2015 installation is planned. In the meantime, the Connectors and Public Workshop have provided a fence to protect the lot, keeping it safe and clean for a roster of events like those already underway at the 42nd and Lancaster site. (These projects and events are funded by LISC Philadelphia, ArtPlace America and the Surdna Foundation.)

"There’s a lot of energy around making safe spaces in the neighborhood," says Lemieur. Projects like this help, "but it’ll be an ongoing process."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source. Meg Lemieur, People’s Emergency Center

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