The triangular wedge created by Passyunk Avenue, Sixth Street, and Christian Street has gone from a gas station to green in the matter of a decade. Neighbors have tended Triangle Park since the lot's owner removed the chain link fence in 2006, cleaning and greening the once-overgrown vacant lot.
On April 14, Triangle Park neighbors and friends pitched in to tidy up the triangle as part of the Spring Cleanup event. But within days the triangle had cyclone fence around it again. Today the irises and roses are blooming behind chain link.
Triangle Park is not and has never been a public park, but neighborhood residents were trying to change that. The property is owned by Stuart Schlaffman.
Schlaffman, who also owns Condom Kingdom and The Mood on South Street, took down the old Amoco station that once stood on the triangular lot and removed the underground fuel tanks more than five years ago, but the cleared lot became an overgrown mess.
In 2006 neighbors asked Schlaffman if they could clean it up. Sure.
Then they asked to plant. Okay.
In a phone conversation last week, Schlaffman told me that he’s always intended to sell the property, but he has happily allowed neighbors to improve its appearance.
The effort to clean and green the lot was led by Bella Vista resident Joel Palmer, who sees the triangle as the "gateway between Queen Village and Bella Vista." Palmer has worked to get near-neighbors interested in maintaining the lot and has dealt directly with Schlaffman. Gateway though it is, Palmer is also the first to acknowledge that official park status is a work-in-progress.
Palmer and the Friends of Triangle Park
group worked with then-Councilman Frank DiCicco to see if the city would acquire the lot so that the Triangle Park could become a permanent fixture. DiCicco apparently secured Neighborhood Transformation Initiative funding for the Redevelopment Authority to acquire the lot. Once that happens, title could be transferred to Friends of Triangle Park (awaiting its official tax-exempt status from the IRS) to maintain and use the property in perpetuity as a park.
Even though negotiations had proceeded in good faith, the whole process stalled out a few months ago, leaving Schlaffman frustrated.
“I didn’t mind them using the property,” Schlaffman said. “I’m all for them purchasing this property and have them turn it into a park.” Still, Schlaffman said he was motivated to put up the fence because he believes the entire lot will have to be excavated to remove contamination left by the gas station’s subterranean fuel tanks. He added that “prospective buyers” were reticent to move on the property because it looks like a community park. He said two interested parties considered the lot but were put off by its appearance.