Returning Vacant Property to the Real Estate Market

Organizing Pennsylvania cities and towns statewide

John organized three well-attended annual conferences on “Vacant Property in Pennsylvania Cities and Towns,” the first of their kind in the United States, in collaboration with 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania and the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. Conference presentations and dialogue among participants set the stage for the enactment of new state legislation facilitating vacant property acquisition and reuse (2002-04).

Leveraging private and public investment in York

A vacant property investment strategy that John completed for the City of York, PA inspired Mayor John S. Brenner to launch a “208 by 2008” initiative, through which 208 vacant properties—a significant portion of the city’s total vacant property inventory—were transformed to higher and better uses through public and private acquisition and development (2006-08).

Spreading success from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

Following a well-received presentation of Philadelphia’s vacant lot management program to development agency managers in Pittsburgh, John worked with Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to organize a two-day Philadelphia site visit that enabled Pittsburgh city agency and nonprofit organization managers to meet their Philadelphia counterparts, exchange information about best practices, and discuss opportunities to replicate successful Philadelphia models in Pittsburgh (2009).

Exporting knowledge to cities in seeking new opportunities

In recognition of his success in addressing vacant property challenges on both a local and statewide level in Pennsylvania, John was invited to become a member of the National Vacant Property Campaign’s National Advisory Committee and to participate in the completion of NVPC-sponsored site assessments and strategic planning projects in Baltimore, Buffalo, Dayton, New Orleans, and Richmond (2004-07).

An activist campaign to reform an antiquated system

John has had a longstanding concern about the need to ensure that speculators who have contributed to housing vacancy and blight are prohibited from participating in tax foreclosure sales. Based on this concern and following reports on the mismanagement of tax foreclosure sales by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, John campaigned for Sheriff in the 2011 Democratic primary election, based on a pledge that, once elected, he would reassign the responsibilities of the office to city government. John’s first-time candidacy produced 31,000 votes, and, although he was not elected, the reform he proposed is expected to be proposed for City Council ratification in 2012 (2011).