Local organizations create outdoor ‘Love Lot’ space in Kensington

Kensington Love Lot
Creative Placemaking installation at Prevention Point with artist Chris Hammes, May 31, 2023.
Steve Weinik

A Kensington nonprofit aimed at harm reduction and providing social services has transformed a vacant city lot into an art environment and vital resource hub for Philadelphians.

For over 30 years, Prevention Point Philadelphia has served the Kensington community distributing free meals to people in need, along with other vital resources to individuals experiencing addiction.

Silvana Mazzella, Prevention Point Philadelphia’s interim lead executive officer, says the organization relocated roughly 10 years ago from the area of Lehigh Avenue and Palethorp Street, which was significantly smaller.

The organization has since continued its operations inside of a church where they’re headquartered on the 2900 block of Kensington Avenue.

Steve Weinik

“We’ve only been able to essentially renovate a floor at a time since we’ve been there,” said Mazzella. “Then we got hit with COVID.”

With support from the City of Philadelphia, Prevention Point was able to team up with Broad Street Ministry and SEAMAAC, on a collaborative effort to provide free lunches and COVID tests to communities weekly early during the pandemic.

In 2021, more than 250,000 meals were served with Step Up To The Plate funding.

Last year, the social services organization reportedly averaged over 100,000 meals served in 2022.

At some point in 2021, Mazzella says Prevention Point Philadelphia took over a neighboring vacant lot after the building next to the church was demolished.

This acquisition launched the vision to broaden and expand its community humanitarian efforts, which gave birth to the ‘Love Lot.’

This new “love hub” Mazzella says has taken on many forms.

“We’ve had COVID testing, food donations, and even a warming center in the winter when it had a tent covering. It has taken on many forms,” she said.

Steve Weinik

However, in the last 18-24 months, the artist Jacob C. Hammes and his team have begun transforming it.

“Art and community development have always gone hand in hand,” Executive Director Jane Golden of Mural Arts Philadelphia said in a statement. “By transforming the Love Lot with color and creativity, we have not only reimagined a vacant space, but we’ve also cultivated a vibrant community hub for Kensington.”

Some of these developments on the 4,000-square-foot lot include:

  • Solar kitchen created for food service inside a converted shipping container that features a custom solar power setup
  • Memory wall featuring hundreds of ceramic tiles remembering lost loved ones and messages of inspiration
  • Ground, rolling, and hanging plantings, including herbs, rose bushes, and wildflowers planted by local farmers
  • Rainwater collection system for plants
  • Free Wi-Fi in the surrounding area
  • Brightly colored Sun Wall with wooden suns
  • Seating made from trees recovered by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
  • New fencing and area for public restrooms

“The Love Lot is a long time coming,” Mazzella added. “Twin crises of opioids and overdose continue to unfold. We’re seeing many more people in need and unsheltered in the Kensington area. Having this space allows us to provide more services.”

Overall, Mazzella says the message she hopes the Love Lot conveys is that you’re welcomed and feel appreciated.

“You’re wanted. You’re loved. You’re a sunshine,” said Mazzella. “We wanted to create a space where you can certainly access resources but also provide a space that you can come be yourself and enjoy.”

The Love Lot will be officially dedicated Tuesday, July 25, at 1 p.m. on the 2900 block of Ruth Street.