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Philly’s land bank is a mess | Morning Newsletter

And funding public education in Pa.

The Philadelphia Land Bank was created in 2013 to help the city move its vacant land into productive use and acquire abandoned private land. Neglected properties can draw illegal dumping and littering, as seen along 29th Street earlier this year in Strawberry Mansion.
The Philadelphia Land Bank was created in 2013 to help the city move its vacant land into productive use and acquire abandoned private land. Neglected properties can draw illegal dumping and littering, as seen along 29th Street earlier this year in Strawberry Mansion.Read moreTyger Williams / Staff Photographer

    The Morning Newsletter

    Start your day with the Philly news you need and the stories you want all in one easy-to-read newsletter

Happy Tuesday. Expect both sun and clouds, with temps in the 70s.

Today, we take a look at the decade-old Philadelphia Land Bank, the slow-moving, inefficient city agency charged with managing thousands of parcels of vacant land. Can the Parker administration fix it?

And the Pennsylvania House just took a step toward changing the public school funding system. The legislative move comes as Jay-Z (yes, that one) gets involved in the push for school vouchers in the state.

Here’s what you need to know today.

Julie Zeglen (

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The city-operated Philadelphia Land Bank was founded in 2013 to better acquire, manage, and sell thousands of parcels of vacant land. A decade in, it hasn’t quite met expectations.

🏠 The land bank has sold fewer than 900 lots and 1,000 homes, while at least 7,680 lots sit in limbo. Stakeholders describe dysfunction and blockers including understaffing, a difficult-to-navigate website, lack of transparency, and a divided board. As a result, many developers — the people best poised to put that city-held property to productive use — avoid it.

🏠 “With other land banks, things move faster,” one midsized developer told The Inquirer. “I wouldn’t go down the road of doing a land bank project in Philadelphia because I’d be concerned that it might get stuck in a bottleneck somewhere.”

🏠 Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s administration, which has a goal to build or repair 30,000 units of housing in four years, says efforts to speed up and demystify the process are in the works. Details so far are scant.

Commercial real estate reporter Jake Blumgart spoke to a dozen stakeholders about what meaningful reform could look like.

P.S. One of the most controversial Philadelphia Land Bank projects is officially dead: Developer Mohamed “Mo” Rushdy told Norris Square groups that he was pulling the plug on his proposal for dozens of subsidized home ownership units.

The way Pennsylvania funds public school education may be changing.

The latest: On Monday, bipartisan state lawmakers passed a bill proposing a big boost to education funding — more than $5 billion over seven years, of which Philadelphia would be eligible to receive $1.4 billion. The bill is certain to face scrutiny in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Why it matters: Lawmakers were tasked by a Commonwealth Court judge last year with creating a new school funding system. The landmark ruling found Pennsylvania was violating students’ constitutional rights to an education, leaving schools with inadequate resources.

In other news, Jay-Z: The rapper and entrepreneur, via his entertainment company Roc Nation, has entered the fray over funding school vouchers in Pennsylvania’s next budget. And he’s coming under fire among Democrats for supporting a Republican-led, $300 million proposal.

The Inquirer’s Maddie Hanna and Gillian McGoldrick break down the House’s newly passed bill, and explain why Jay-Z’s efforts are so controversial.

What you should know today

  1. A 20-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison for the October fatal shooting of local journalist and advocate Josh Kruger, court records show.

  2. Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel confirmed Monday that at least 75 additional police officers will be deployed to Kensington as soon as next week and that the department intends to move quickly into a phase of heavier narcotics enforcement.

  3. At Freire Charter High School’s commencement, a grad was awarded an $8,000 scholarship in honor of her best friend who was shot and killed.

  4. Tenants in three Philadelphia apartment complexes are suing their property manager — an affiliate of an affordable housing developer — over moldy, leaky, and dangerous conditions.

  5. J. Larry Jameson, who stepped in as interim president of the University of Pennsylvania in December, will remain in the role through the 2025-26 academic year or until the school has found a new president. Meanwhile, Penn RAs got their first union contract.

  6. Real estate developer Ori Feibush announced the immediate closure of his three OCF Coffee House locations on Monday, a week after OCF workers informed him of their intent to unionize.

  7. Philly chefs and restaurants were shut out at the 2024 James Beard Awards, but the city made the scene just the same.

🧠 Trivia time

Montgomery County is building a $30 million hydropower station on the Schuylkill. What does it plan to power with the renewable energy?

A) Farmland

B) Thousands of homes

C) Data centers

D) County-owned buildings

Think you know? Check your answer.

What we’re...

🏈 Reading: This heart-wrenching story about Northeast Philly native Frank Wycheck, the NFL star whose family is now waiting to find out if he had CTE.

Booking: Father’s Day feasts and activities, thanks to this handy guide.

🍓 Picking: Our own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other produce near Philadelphia.

🧩 Unscramble the anagram

The popular Eagles jersey color introduced for the 2023 season.


Email us if you know the answer. We’ll select a reader at random to shout out here. Cheers to Cathy Overmeyer, who solved Monday’s anagram: South Street. The iconic commercial strip is home to hookah bars, Condom Kingdom, and a new DVD-rental store — yes, really.

Photo of the day

Have a great Tuesday. See you again tomorrow morning.

P.S. Yesterday’s newsletter contained a typo. The dance group that performed at Sunday’s Odunde Festival is called Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble.

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