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View Poll Results: Which formerly forlorn sections of the city will see the most transformative changes in the 2020s?
Lower North Philly 10 30.30%
Central North Philly 1 3.03%
Upper North Philly 1 3.03%
West Philly--South of Market 6 18.18%
West Philly--North of Market 3 9.09%
Southwest Philly 2 6.06%
Kensington 9 27.27%
Frankford 1 3.03%
Voters: 33. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-06-2019, 03:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
"Fly in the ointment" because Temple doesn't and won't have the power to stop the Wave from washing into Strawberry Mansion from Brewerytown and Sharswood, but its plans will blunt its force in the neighborhood immediately to the west of campus, now called Cecil B. Moore by some after the street that runs along its southern edge.

I'm still a little skeptical of the Philadelphia Housing Authority's role in Sharswood - I broke the story of the agency's bait-and-switch on redevelopment after it tore down most of the Norman Blumberg Apartments; while it was supposed to be mapping out Sharswood's future with Sharswood residents, it actually had its own plans all drawn up, and they weren't what the residents envisioned. (And that vision actually had less, not more, affordable housing in it than the PHA's plan did; read Brewerytown/Sharswood Community Civic Association President Warren McMichael's quote in the story.) But I will give them points for actually getting stuff built, something more in keeping with the rowhouse character of the place; they apparently are cognizant of their less-than-stellar past reputation.

Penn learned a painful lesson from its experience with the University City Science Center and University City High School; the former wiped out an entire working-class black community, and its promises to be involved in the operation of the latter turned to dust the day its doors opened in 1972. That latter is why Spruce Hill residents insisted Penn's name go on Sadie T.M. Alexander School when Penn made its second foray into neighborhood stabilzation and revitalization. And in that second foray, Penn solicited feedback from existing Spruce Hill residents about what the neighborhood needed. John Fry absorbed the lessons he learned there well and is applying all of them as the school he now runs seeks to do for Powelton Village and part of the area Penn laid waste what Penn did for Spruce Hill. I see none of this emanating from Temple.

One of those Spruce Hill residents, by the way, is now a Germantowner. I knew him when I worked in Penn's communications office and he headed the Spruce Hill Community Association. He's as much of a neighborhood activist here as he was there, and we're together again in a project to revive community journalism in the neighborhood. Both of us are African-American and middle-class; he lives on Germantown's more middle-class west side while I live on its poorer east side.



I've been accused of donning rose-colored glasses in describing what's happening in Germantown now, especially in that overview of the current state of affairs I wrote in Next City summer before last. I do agree with you that Germantown's revitalization is more fragile than it is in the other neighborhoods, and it is precisely because

--it's taking place with lots of little people doing it rather than a few big developers
--it's occurring piecemeal, "one house at a time," as Jumpstart Germantown's motto says
--it's having a hard time gaining traction in the central business district, whose decline is actually steeper than the residential district's; Uncle Bobbie's and the Espresso Bar can't bring the area around all by themselves

The first two facts are why I'd describe what's happening here as a "slow-motion" revitalization. Except at Wayne Junction, which Ken Weinstein is now pouring beaucoup money into, it's not large-scale or on a short time horizon. The neighborhood's fragmented leadership doesn't help things any either, as it dilutes the effectiveness of such advocacy as it can muster before City Hall. (We've been promised a reconstruction of Maplewood Mall, a charming little shopping street that's geared towards pedestrians but has gotten shabby since a 1970s makeover, for a few years now. It was supposed to get under way this summer. A ceremonial groundbreaking last week was canceled because of the heavy storms that were passing through that day. I hope that's not an omen.)

One recession could indeed bring this all to a halt. But the reason I'm more optimistic than that is this: One big developer sidelined by the recession brings all activity to a grinding halt. Not all of the hundreds of little ones will be. Those that have grown strong enough might even be able to keep some small projects going, assuming they can get financing.

You ask why any middle-class or well-off person would choose Germantown as a place to live. I'd suggest you put that question to the five percent of neighborhood households with annual incomes of $125k or more. (What other low-income Philadelphia neighborhood do you know of with that many affluent residents?) Or to the mostly but not entirely African-American middle-class types who buy those $500K houses in my own Census tract.

I think I can give you one reason, and it's the same reason the Mt. Airy real estate agent I've known for nearly 20 years gave when I asked her what drew people to that neighborhood: "more house, more trees and more quiet." (I quoted her in my print-issue Mt. Airy neighborhood guide, and she goes on at greater length here.) Crime aside - and the kind that wakes people up at night is largely confined to pockets of the neighborhood - you could use this phrase to describe what you'll find in the better-off parts of Germantown, including the Tulpehocken Station Historic District in that more affluent northwest quadrant. Length of commute in these cases is not a deterrent; it's the more "suburban" character of much of this part of Northwest Philadelphia that leads people to move up this way, and they consider the Regional Rail commute a price worth paying. (And ISTR at least one Mt. Airy resident who used to post here who said that the BSL to Erie and 23 bus from there was actually faster for him.) A good chunk of this city's relatively small supply of freestanding single-family residences is located in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. If you want that but don't want to live in the actual 'burbs, a place like this will have a good bit of appeal. I might even say that outside perceptions of the neighborhood are holding it back more than actual conditions within it are.

I could probably think of a few other reasons why, but I have some more writing to do.
Hey, you could be correct. Bottom line is no one knows until everything comes to fruition. I truly hope you're on to something. The city could really use a solid anchor in the NW. Personally, I'm just skeptical that this antiquated out-neighborhood is where it's going to happen.
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Old 11-06-2019, 11:52 PM
 
Location: West Philadelphia
25 posts, read 5,943 times
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Originally Posted by Pennsport View Post
Hey, you could be correct. Bottom line is no one knows until everything comes to fruition. I truly hope you're on to something. The city could really use a solid anchor in the NW. Personally, I'm just skeptical that this antiquated out-neighborhood is where it's going to happen.
A solid anchor in the NW? Chestnut Hill, West Mt Airy, Manayunk, Roxborough...none of these are solid enough for you? Also, re: the regional rail commute – some folks spend an hour on the subway in NYC just to get to Manhattan. 30 minutes on regional rail is not the worst commute one could have.
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Old 11-07-2019, 12:10 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
5,543 posts, read 2,705,240 times
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Originally Posted by banjozac View Post
A solid anchor in the NW? Chestnut Hill, West Mt Airy, Manayunk, Roxborough...none of these are solid enough for you? Also, re: the regional rail commute – some folks spend an hour on the subway in NYC just to get to Manhattan. 30 minutes on regional rail is not the worst commute one could have.
Part of East Mt. Airy is poor, but the other part isn't. (The dividing line is the middle of the block between Meehan Street and Gorgas Lane.)

And the central artery of the neighborhood - its "downtown" - is Germantown Avenue, which both sides of the neighborhood share.

Each side has its own civic group, but local leaders promote Mt. Airy as one.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MarketStEl View Post
Wet noodle accepted. You're right that Fry wouldn't have happened without Rodin. It's just that Rodin went on to other things, like promoting the region, while Fry continued to play the redevelopment game.
Yep, she did what she set out to do along with the unexpected near financial collapse of the Penn Health System. And, unlike president-for-life(it seems) Amy Gutmann, she moved on when it made sense to do so. What she did is largely forgotten now just like you forgot her.
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Old 11-07-2019, 10:53 AM
 
Location: The City of Brotherly Love
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I haven't really had time to respond to some of the questions presented in this poll, but now I do.

1.) I really wanted to include Germantown, but I ended up leaving it out due to the fact that I've never really considered any part of the Northwest to be forlorn. Northwest Philly is one of the few sections--possibly the only section--of the city where no neighborhood is overwhelmingly bad. Germantown is so huge and diverse that, even though there are some pockets of poverty, I can't consider the neighborhood itself to be formerly forlorn. I suppose I could've included East Germantown in the poll, but large sections of it are middle-class and stable.

I could've also included the Dogtown section of Mt. Airy (a narrow but VERY weird sliver of Mt. Airy) by the above logic, but East Mt. Airy is also too economically diverse. There is also new construction activity, especially towards the western Germantown Avenue side.

2.) Most of Kingsessing falls under the "Southwest Philly" option. I should've further specified that option to exclude the triangle formed by 52nd Street, Kingsessing Avenue, and the Media/Elwyn Line tracks. That section of Kingsessing is undergoing a healthy revitalization, as some people (including myself) see it as no different than living in Squirrel Hill, minus the need to cross over or under the Regional Rail tracks.
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Old 11-07-2019, 03:44 PM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
5,543 posts, read 2,705,240 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilliesPhan2013 View Post
1.) I really wanted to include Germantown, but I ended up leaving it out due to the fact that I've never really considered any part of the Northwest to be forlorn. Northwest Philly is one of the few sections--possibly the only section--of the city where no neighborhood is overwhelmingly bad. Germantown is so huge and diverse that, even though there are some pockets of poverty, I can't consider the neighborhood itself to be formerly forlorn. I suppose I could've included East Germantown in the poll, but large sections of it are middle-class and stable.

I could've also included the Dogtown section of Mt. Airy (a narrow but VERY weird sliver of Mt. Airy) by the above logic, but East Mt. Airy is also too economically diverse. There is also new construction activity, especially towards the western Germantown Avenue side.
Mt. Airy is seeing the kind of new construction we see in many other neighborhoods - the boxy, generic modern apartment buildings and rowhouse blocks, most of these along Germantown Avenue itself. And on the whole, not even Dogtown I would class as "forlorn." They may not be affluent, but I've not seen houses falling apart there as I did on a street one block south and two blocks east of me on a ramble around the neighborhood back in March.

As for the neighborhood I call home (again): My landlord once said this: "As cities go, Philadelphia is highly variegated. As Philadelphia neighborhoods go, Germantown is highly variegated." By this he meant that just about no part of the city is uniformly this one thing or that one thing, not even Center City (check the median household income stats for Chinatown sometime; it's actually one of the city's poorer neighborhoods). Just as residential segregation in Philadelphia has a patchwork-quilt quality to it, in contrast to cities like Chicago or my hometown, so income segregation does the same thing.

I've said in the past that the neighborhood-wide stats for both Germantown and Mt. Airy hide as much as they reveal. In Mt. Airy, the poor disappear; in Germantown, the affluent do.

But because the affluent - and even the merely middle-class - disappear in Germantown, too many outside it write it off completely. And that's what I mean when I say that outside perception may be holding it back more than anything internal to the neighborhood is.

(Something else worth mentioning: Contrary to popular assumptions, lots of poor people like nice things too. Many keep their houses up as best they can. And I sure noticed how business improved after the Crown Fried Chicken clone on the corner where I wait for the bus gave itself a makeover that included more attractive signage, a better-looking interior and no more Plexiglas barrier completely separating customers from staff. Before, this place was often empty; now, it rarely is.)

P.S.: FWIW, PhilliesPhan2013 and I are friends.
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Old 11-07-2019, 08:29 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
516 posts, read 205,434 times
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Quote:
I think I can give you one reason, and it's the same reason the Mt. Airy real estate agent I've known for nearly 20 years gave when I asked her what drew people to that neighborhood: "more house, more trees and more quiet." (I quoted her in my print-issue Mt. Airy neighborhood guide, and she goes on at greater length here.) Crime aside - and the kind that wakes people up at night is largely confined to pockets of the neighborhood - you could use this phrase to describe what you'll find in the better-off parts of Germantown, including the Tulpehocken Station Historic District in that more affluent northwest quadrant. Length of commute in these cases is not a deterrent; it's the more "suburban" character of much of this part of Northwest Philadelphia that leads people to move up this way, and they consider the Regional Rail commute a price worth paying. (And ISTR at least one Mt. Airy resident who used to post here who said that the BSL to Erie and 23 bus from there was actually faster for him.) A good chunk of this city's relatively small supply of freestanding single-family residences is located in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. If you want that but don't want to live in the actual 'burbs, a place like this will have a good bit of appeal. I might even say that outside perceptions of the neighborhood are holding it back more than actual conditions within it are.
I agree, and further:

1) Wissahickon Park

2) There are actually a lot of really excellent schools in the area (many of which are private), most notably Germantown Friends School, but there are many others. I wonder, as I have not done the math, if one is trying to buy a single family home and send a kid or two to school, if it is more affordable to pay for the real estate and taxes in Lower Merion SD or buy a place in Germantown and send your kids to private school. Maybe I’m way over estimating the costs there. All this isn’t to mention there are a few underrated charters and Central High School is just a hop away.

I agree if people looking for more elbow room and nature, yet still want character, affordability and some urban amenities wake up to Germantown, it could continue to propel forward. I completely agree that it’d be a shame if developers ran the revitalization show.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:12 AM
 
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in my eyes the entire NW section of the city has some of the most attractive neighborhoods in the city. Germantown is just begging for attention and I'm amazed that it already isn't one of the city's more affluent neighborhoods given the housing stock, parks and access to transit. Germantown ave. also has better bones than any suburban commercial corridor I've seen and the history on top of that. It's easy to envision chestnut hill-level development all the way to Wayne junction. Only thing that the suburbs have over it are the public schools (with the exception of central hs, and folks already mentioned the top-notch private schools like friends/nearby penn charter) and crime. Whatever crime is there couldn't possibly be much worse than Point Breeze and that hasn't seemed to stop people buying there.
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:41 AM
 
9,929 posts, read 5,625,317 times
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Originally Posted by Muinteoir View Post
I agree, and further:

1) Wissahickon Park

2) There are actually a lot of really excellent schools in the area (many of which are private), most notably Germantown Friends School, but there are many others. I wonder, as I have not done the math, if one is trying to buy a single family home and send a kid or two to school, if it is more affordable to pay for the real estate and taxes in Lower Merion SD or buy a place in Germantown and send your kids to private school. Maybe I’m way over estimating the costs there. All this isn’t to mention there are a few underrated charters and Central High School is just a hop away.

I agree if people looking for more elbow room and nature, yet still want character, affordability and some urban amenities wake up to Germantown, it could continue to propel forward. I completely agree that it’d be a shame if developers ran the revitalization show.
FWIW, there are Fairmount/Spring Garden kids who go to Germantown Friends. They're bused there.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:16 PM
 
9,929 posts, read 5,625,317 times
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OT because it's not a forlorn neighborhood but Overbrook Farms is now an official historic district.
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