September 28, 2015

About Urban Arboreta: Transforming Ground

Cities across the country are recognizing the impact of environmentally sound planning, whether increasing the urban tree canopy or managing urban waterways. Successful tree planting campaigns and riparian buffer treatments have brought with them an increase in demand for nursery stock.

Our vision is to launch a self-sustaining and environmentally sound business model for nursery production and community open space on Philadelphia’s vacant land. The re-purposed spaces will have a strong community focus, offering educational programs and opportunities for professional job training in the nursery trade.

As a model, Urban Arboreta will supply plants for regional plantings of riparian buffers, reforestation areas and street trees, investigating new approaches to urban forestry, propagation, and revenue generation.


Some project history:

The concept for Urban Arboreta began as an entry to the 2005 Urban Voids: Grounds for Change ideas competition created by City Parks Association. Urban Voids challenged design teams to find creative and ecologically sound solutions for Philadelphia’s vacant land, which, at the time numbered over 40,000 properties. Matt Langan’s proposal, “Urban Arboretum,” was named as one of five finalists.

Philadelphia has changed greatly since then, and the language around vacancy has shifted as well–from seeing vacancy as ‘blight’, to recognizing vacancy as presenting unique opportunities for the city. The ideas put forth in Langan’s initial Urban Arboretum proposal continued to evolve, through design studios led by Tim Baird, Matt Langan and Deenah Loeb at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania. In the fall of 2014, when the Knight Foundation announced the Knight Cities Challenge with Philadelphia as one of the focus cities, Baird and Loeb submitted a revised and updated proposal, inspired by some of Langan’s earlier work. In March of 2015, Urban Arboreta was selected as one of 32 winning ideas of the Challenge. We’re just getting started, but keep checking this site for news about the project and its progress!


Urban Arboreta: transforming ground is supported through generous funding from the Knight Foundation.