Queen Village- Philly’s first “Suburb”

Queens Village was Philadelphia’s first suburb and thus has a ton of history. Despite William Penn’s planned orderly east-to-west filling of the city, new inhabitants tended to stay close to the Delaware River, preferring to subdivide Penn’s original ample lots or move just south or north of the city rather than west beyond 4th Street. Thus Queen’s Village began to fill in during the late 1700s starting with  a large Swedish population. The district also attracted Philly’s first Free African American Community in the early 1800s. Queens Village was officially incorporated into the City of Philadelphia in the mid-1850s. By the 1890s, an Eastern European Jewish population settled along the South Street and 4th Street commercial corridors, the latter of which became Philadelphia’s Fabric Row. Steams of Polish then Italian immigrants came during the turn of the 20th century taking advantage of many waterfront jobs. This helped establish South Philly as the City’s main Italian hub. Between the major wars, Queens Village became over crowded with poor local housing conditions. This unfortunately led to some ill-conceived urban renewal efforts including the construction of 1-95 cutting the district from the waterfront and the Southwark projects built between Christian and Washington Streets.  These efforts, along with suburban sprawl lead to several decades of decline in Queen Village especially in the concentrated area of poverty at the Southwark projects.

Thanks to several conditions (a burgeoning historic preservation movement, commercial revitalization efforts along South Street, and a stabilizing effort by Italian and other immigrant families who refused to leave the neighborhood), revitalization came to Queens Village in the 70s and 80s. Now the district is one of Philly’s best urban centers but also very expensive. Other than the affordability issue, there is not a whole lot to improve to this dense, mixed-use neighborhood. But if I’m being nitty picky the district could use better tree canopy, ADA infrastructure, a public library, and better park amenities.

Click here to view my full Queen Village Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great density. Nearly 40K per square mile.
* Great access to Center City Philly being just south of Society Hill.
* Convenient district for all modes of transportation via bike, walking, and public transit.
* Decent but not great diversity here.
* Good amount of project housing near Washington Ave.
* Access to a several smaller parks, playgrounds, and plazas well distributed throughout the district. Jefferson Square/Sacks Playground is the largest recreational space in the district.
* A very safe feeling district with very limited amounts of blight.
* Only a handful of solid schools within the district but several good ones in surrounding neighborhoods along with walkable access to several alternative high schools about 1 mile away.
* High level of cultural amenities here including a great diversity of restaurants, bars, and cafes, several live music venues along South Street, and many art galleries.. There are also several historic homes and museums just to the north and northeast in adjoining Society Hill and Navy Yards.
* Great Amenities are also great and include: several supermarkets just outside the neighborhood boundaries, many grocerias/small grocers, a couple drug stores, a great array of boutiques, antique stores, bookstores, and creative shops, plenty of banks, a local post office, hardware store, desert joints, and a decent mix of churches.
* Excellent historic architecture Georgian styling near front and Italianate further within the district. Lovely 2-story bays in the commer. buildings as well.
* Modern infill stylistically is hit or miss depending on what decade it is, but always very contextual (with the major exception with the affordable housing near Washington Street (bland 89s/90s structures with courtyard parking).
* Urban form is great throughout the district with the major exception of parts of Washington Street.
* Great mixed use development helped by several biz districts (South, 4th, & Bainbridge) and mixed use buildings throughout. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Decent ADA infrastructure. Good along Commercial streets but modern ADA curbs are spotting on residential streets.
* While this is a very expensive neighborhood still a good amount of smaller 2 & 3 bedroom rowhouses/condos selling in the high 200Ks/ and 300Ks. Modest sized but higher end product selling between 400K-600K. Larger higher end product selling between 600K and about 1 Million.
* Rentals are also pretty expensive but plentiful. Studios go for around 1K. 1-bedrooms in the mid to high 1,000s. 2-bedrooms the high 1Ks to the mid 2Ks,
* No library within the district.
* Tree cover is okay. Its certainly difficult to fit trees in with such limited side walk space.

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