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Our Family Helping Our Philadelphia Community

Vacant Lot Transforms Into a Beautiful Community Garden

The Rachael Ray Show had already scouted out and identified a location at the corner of Wharton Street and East Passyunk Avenue at 9th Street, for a much-needed project to transform a vacant lot at one of Philadelphia’s most famous blocks (“Steak Street” South Philly) into a community garden surrounded by picturesque murals. This space was to serve as a food-producing garden, urban green space and the location of the taping for Rachael Ray/6ABC Great Philly Grill-Off. To ensure the community garden’s sustainability after the show taping, the Camden City Garden Club were enlisted to engage and advise gardeners from the community

Mr. Contractor received a call from Rachael Ray of the Rachael Ray show. She asked our office manager, Jennie, if we wanted to contribute back to the city of Philadelphia for a very good cause. Naturally we said yes, but wanted to know more information and be able to discuss with the entire Mr. Contractor family. We were put in contact with Rachael's producers and it was explained to us that a vacant lot owned by Pat's Steaks would be converted to a community garden. Just one problem, the show was new to the area and needed a contractor they could depend on and trust while also capable of getting the job done on time. Fortunately they called the right company.

Mr. Contractor has been a proud member of the Philadelphia neighborhood for over 60 years. Many of our customers live on or around Wharton and Passyunk Ave. We knew precisely the vacant lot Rachel Ray wanted to fix up. Anyone that has eaten at Pat's Steaks or Gino's would also recognize the potential that the lot transformation would have on the area. The Spector's (Allan, Phyllis, Barry, Ken, Lonnie, Steven, Greg and Brandon) were unanimous with their decision to donate labor and material to help Rachael Ray in their project to beautify Philadelphia while giving the community a functional garden.

We were asked to repair and apply new stucco on a side of a building (where a mural would be painted),  build and position 18 garden beds out of wood, erect a living garden wall, create 2 rainwater platforms, install a gutter system to direct rainwater from a building, construct and install a wooden pergola going down the main path, and perform miscellaneous repairs. The task seemed daunting considering the detailed blueprint, 7-day turnaround needed, coordination with other vendors, the shows budgetary concerns, and freeing up some of our crew while still maintaining business as usual with our current customers. But like any other task brought before Mr. Contractor, we not only completed the project, we produced a great quality attention-grabbing finished product. 

You would think that getting the job done wouldn't be so difficult once we got the rhythm going. Of course, one doesn't account for the filming needs and constant stopping for film crews, interviews, commentary by the host, and staging of the set. Not only was this being filmed and produced for the Rachael Ray show, but this garden had the involvement of Dean Hill, host of DIY Network's "Grounds for Improvement".

The garden's afterlife will be managed by the Camden City Garden Club, which operates the Camden Children's Garden and many urban gardens on vacant lots in Camden. Residents in the South Philadelphia neighborhood can volunteer to maintain the garden, and grow produce in the raised beds. "It's one thing to build a community garden, it's something completely different for a community garden to sustain itself," said Dean Hill, a landscape architect based in Orlando, Florida, hired by the show to design the garden. "We want to make sure this thing is successful today, tomorrow, next year, the following year."

The stars were shining in the City of Brotherly Love as the Rachael Ray Show took to the streets for a huge block party with hometown legends Patti LaBelle and Boyz II Men. Plus, three die-hard locals battle it out with their best dishes in our "Great Philly Grill-Off," and makeover pro Ty Pennington helped finally unveil to the city a lasting gift of transforming the empty lot into a thriving community garden. Mr. Contractor was in attendance in the audience to witness the reactions of the community and share in the joy.

Video Clips from the Rachael Ray Show on 9/26/2011...

Pictures of Mr. Contractor Hard At Work Building a Community Garden...

Online Links with Information on the Community Garden...

Below are some links to websites that further discuss and elaborate on information concerning the community garden. Some of the links give a better understanding of the process of creating the garden. In additions, some links provide information for getting involved in this and other community gardens. Feel free to browse.

  6 ABC - Action News
Local News from WPVI-TV/DT Philadelphia
  UWISHUNU - Philly from Inside Out
Official Tourism Blog of Philadelphia
  PR Newswire
Miracle-Gro and Rachael Ray Plant Garden
  Rachael Ray - On the Show
The Great Philly Grill-Off with Patti LaBelle
Dean Hill
Go Green. Live Well. Save Money

  Town Net - Infor on Your Cities
Dust Settles at the Rachael Ray Garden
  Newsworks - WHYY News
Rachael Ray brings show to South Philly
  Searching for Root 101 - Eco-Living
Rachael Ray Garden at E. Passyunk & Wharton
  City Paper - Philly's Newspaper
Rachael Ray Filming in South Philly

Videos of Mr. Contractor Hard At Work Building a Community Garden...