If you are gardening on a vacant lot (or are interested in doing so), you must get the owner’s permission. If you have trouble following any of these steps, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Step 1: Find out who owns the lot. Click here for a searchable map that will tell you who owns any lot in the city. You can either enter in the lot’s street address or zoom in to the intersection and click on the lot. A box will appear in the lower left-hand corner of your screen telling you who the owner is. You can also do this on Grounded in Philly, which offers additional legal resources.
Step 2: Get permission to garden. If the lot is owned by the city (the owner might be listed as “Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority” or “Department of Public Property” or “City of Philadelphia” or “Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation”), you need to get an urban garden agreement. You can do that by registering on the Philly Land Works website. You can also visit the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority at 1234 Market Street, 16th Floor. It’s a good idea to tell your district City Councilperson that you are in the process of applying for a city-owned property. You will need their support if you want to purchase the lot (or if you want NGT to hold title to it).
If the lot is privately owned, send a certified letter to the owner asking for permission to garden on the land. You should also ask about the owner’s long-term plans for the lot: Are they planning to sell the land? Develop it? If so, you might want to reconsider putting a lot of sweat equity into a piece of land that could disappear soon.
In many cases, you won’t be able to locate the owner. If the property is vacant and tax delinquent, it may be possible to acquire the land via sheriff’s sale. The Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff has more information on that process.