2014 - Joyce Smith is a resident of Viola Street and the Community Development Coordinator of Viola Street Resident Association (VSRA). "We started out as a block association," says Joyce, "We have extended our boundaries to communicate with our neighbors on Leidy Street, Thompson Street, and Parkside Avenue."
When you walk down the 4200 block of Viola Street in East Parkside, it’s clear that residents are taking care of the block. The street and sidewalks are clean, there’s a thriving community garden, and homes are well-kept. But the block’s residents felt they were working against a tide of steady neighborhood deterioration. Abandoned homes and vacant lots were sprinkled throughout the block, with a particularly troubling cluster at the south end of Viola Street.
VSRA had been working since 2008 to reclaim their historic blocks when they asked the Community Design Collaborative to put their “grassroots, resident-driven” vision down on paper to complement the City of Philadelphia's West Park District Plan.
Viola Street was quick to set its new plan in motion, working with Habitat for Humanity of Philadelphia to restore windows and porches on historic homes and with the Neighborhood Garden Trust to expand its community garden. In 2014, Project Reclaim was unanimously accepted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission as a neighborhood plan.
“I think it’s just a beautiful neighborhood… I just moved here in 2007 and I fell in love with the homes on the street. We can turn this place into a really beautiful place to live."