Downtown York, PA

Downtown York is another great example of a well-built historic PA mid-sized Downtown. For a long time York lived under the shadow of Lancaster 40 minutes to the east. Lancaster was the sought out and revitalized downtown with great vibrancy, shops, and tourism. York was the beat down, poverty stricken old and dying Pennsylvania city. Fortunately that dynamic is changing thanks to Hispanic immigration, which has stabilized and even grown the city’s population since 2000. And the revitalization efforts of a wealthy civic leader who has begun renovating historic buildings and filling them with local artists and local businesses.

I would categorize George Street as York’s Main Street. It’s lined with the City’s tallest buildings, many significant institutions & office towers, the Capitol & Valencia theater, and the City’s central Market Square. Market St is the Downtown’s second main street. The western half functions as a traditional main street, which is nicely streetscaped and hosts several historic sites. The eastern half is regal 3-5 story buildings from the 19th century with mixed-uses. The Western half of Philadelphia St and Queen St. are also pretty important streets hosting significant Downtown buildings and quality historic fabric.

My hope is the Downtown York can continue its positive revitalization trajectory and begin to fill in its dead spaces and add more retail and cultural amenities.

Click here to view my York Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Very compact and intact Dwtn area.
* Great historic architecture.
* In tact and active historic market.
* Lots of rowhouse, residential fabric within the Dtwn area.
* Good cultural amenities including plenty of restaurants, bars & cafes, several art galleries, a couple local theaters, several breweries and a couple live music venues.
* Pretty good retail amenities including the Central Market, plenty of boutiques & gift shops, some small grocerias, dwtn post office & library, a couple of drug stores, etc.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

 * So  density and dwtn population. Could be better.
* There is one dedicated bike lanes cutting down King St. but bike infrastructure could certainly be better.
* No supermarket are other retail amenities found is very vibrant districts.
* Some underutilization, grit, and vacancy on the edges of Downtown. 

Downtown Reading, PA

Downtown is generally between Walnut to the north and Chesnutt to the south and from the River east to about S 8th St. Penn and 5th Avenue are the main Dwtn Thorofares with Penn being primarily retail and commercial and 5th very mixed-use and institutional.

Downtown Reading represents eastern Pennsylvania development patterns well… dense attached buildings developed in a mixed-use pattern before more seperated business districts gained momentum in the early 20th century. And due to Reading’s post War II economic slump, urban renewal was limited in Downtown Reading, leaving most of its historic and dense fabric intact. Downtown Reading is one of most dense Mid-sized Downtowns in America! But it still remains pretty economically depressed and therefore trendy restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment venues in more successful dwtns don’t exist here. Instead many Hispanic restaurants and grocerias exist along with lowerend shopping options. I hope the fabric doesn’t change much for Downtown Reading, but I do hope more revitalization occurs bringing more economic diversity and amenities to the district.

Click here to view my Downtown Reading Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Around 10K per square mile, very dense for a Dwtn district.
* Very mixed use Dwtn.
* Great historic architecture.
*  Pretty good cultural amenities including a lot of ethnic restaurants, some bars, a cineplex, several performing arts centers, a hocky arena, and convention center.
* Good amount of retail but more working class stores. No supermarket by lots of ethnic grocerias and clothing joints.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Plenty of grit and buildings needed revitalizing in parts. Some vancancies.
* Limited surface parking and dead spaces.
* Missing higher end restaurants and bars of more revitalized Dwtns.
* Nice bike trail along the river but very limited within Dwtn and within Reading neighborhoods. Also no bike share in the City.

Canonsburg- One of Pittsburgh’s oldest Suburbs

I included most of Canonsburg in this evaluation but excluded the less than urban edges with limited sidewalks south of I-79, west of Oak Spring Rd, and north of North and Gladden Roads.

Canonsburg was laid out by Colonel John Canon in 1789 and incorporated in 1802. It quickly grew to 500 residents in 1820 and 650 by the Civil War. Canonsburg hosted the first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains, Jefferson College, founded in 1802. The school would go on to become Washington & Jefferson College in nearby Washington in 1868 leaving Canonsburg is severe economic straights. Fortunately the railroads and industrialization came to the Borough leading to a second population boom. By 1900 the borough reached 3,000 residents and 12,500 by 1930 but fell  to 8,600 residents by 2000 following the trends of most historic Western PA towns. Surprisingly the Borough’s population has begun to raise and as of 2020 9,744 residents called Canonsburg home.

From an urban perspective Canonsburg has a solid historic main street along Pike St., and hit or miss residential streets. The Borough has solid economic & generational diversity, great public schools, quality parks & recreation, affordable housing, and solid retail amenities. To become a quality urban district the Borough needs better density, bike infrastructure, and connections to Dwtn Pittsburgh via transit, more consistant ADA infrastructure, better cultural amenities, and just more vibrancy and activity. There is also lots of blight still to clean up in the Borough.

Click here to view my Canonsburg Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Economic and generational diversity.
* Several excellent public schools within Canonsburg and an excellent public high school in the adjacent Strabane that should be in the same school district.
* Canonsburg Town Park is expansive with diverse amenities including a pool tennis court hiking trails, playground and ball fields. The borough also the Falconi Fields and couple other smaller parks.
* Some interesting historic architecture along the main street but generally pretty plain in the residential areas.
* A decent # of rentals and generally affordable. 1-beds lease btwn $600-1K, 2-beds in the 1Ks, and 3-bed houses in the high 1Ks and low 2Ks.
* For-sale is also pretty affordable. 1-beds (not many) sell in the low 100Ks, 2-beds btwn 10K-300K, 3 & 4 beds 150K- ~ 400K.
* Seems to be several afford. hsg projects in Canonsburg.
* Pretty good retail amenities including a Shop n Save, Rite Aid, several boutiques & consignment stores, a toy store, antique & home good stores, several banks, a post office, plenty of dessert shops and bakeries, several gyms, and a Public Library. There is also the Canonsburg hospital and tons of churches.
 While Canonsburg has some blight and grit it is actually a very safe place to live.
* Good urban form in the core 4-5 blocks Canonsburg. Pretty autocentric outside of this core area.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Pretty poor density for an urban area.
* So  access to Dwtn. About a 25-30 drive but 50 min public transit ride.
* Transit service is limited to several trips to Dwtn per day on week days and only a couple on the weekend.
* Bike infrastructure is non-existent.
* Poor racial diversity.
* Tree canopy is hit or miss in the residential areas, poor in the biz district, but good along hillsides and valleys.
* Ok cultural amenities including several American restaurants & bars, a couple cafes, a couple breweries. Missing any art galleries, live music venues, theaters/cinemas, or museums.
* ADA infrastructure is pretty decent along the Biz Corridor but very hit or miss along the residential streets. Plenty of missing ADA curbs and often missing segments of sidewalk.
* Not great pedestrian activity.
* Not much in-fill and what does exist is generally pretty bad.

Bridgeville- Western PA’s Borough named after a Bridge

I included the portion of Bridgeville that at least had some semblance of sidewalk connectivity. Areas of Bridgeville I excluded from the evaluation where areas east of New York Rd. and north of McLaughlin Run.

The village that eventually became Bridgeville gained its name after the first bridge built at the crossing of Chartiers Creek at the south end of what is now Washington Avenue. For nearly 100 years, Bridgeville was a village within Upper St. Clair Township, known for its one bridge over Chartiers Creek where people would meet to trade goods. This evolved into an informal name of the village that sprung up north of the bridge starting in the 1830s. As mining operations began in the 1880s  Bridgeville grew to around 1,000 residents in 1900 and shortly after was incorporated as a Borough. Its population quickly grew in the early 20th century to 4,450 residents in 1940 and maxed out in 1960 at just over 7K residents. Like many Western PA communities Bridgeville has seen a steady population decline but not as severe as other communities. Bridgeville now has just under 5K residents.

Bridgeville’s evaluation score was 90, the minimum level I consider to be an urban community. That’s because Bridgeville has a mix of positive and negative attributes from an urban perspective. On the positive side Bridgeville has a decent Dwtn area, with plenty of retail, many restaurants and bars, good mix of affordable for-sale housing, quality historic architecture, decent urban massing, and some walkability. However, it lacks good density, quality transit and bike infrastructure, has fair ADA and sidewalk infrastructure, only one walkable school, limited cultural amenities, and has a rather tired and dated looking streetscape. Obviously there are many areas for urban improvement in Bridgeville but the Borough has the urban bones and a strong enough housing market to become a solid urban community.

Click here to view my Bridgeville Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent access to Dwtn. 20 min drive and 40 min bus ride.
* Great economic and generational diversity.
* Decent medium sized parks (McLaughlin and Chartiers Park).  Bridgeville Historic Society Park is centrally located but small. No swimming pools.
* Bridgeville is overall a safe community. Still a fair amount of grit and some vacancy, especially with commercial bldgs.
* Good mix affordable and moderately priced for sale housing. 1 & 2-bed condos sell btwn 60K-125K, 2-beds sell anywhere btwn 100K-250K, 3&4-beds generally btwn 150K-400K.
* Several affordable housing towers in town.
* Okay cultural amenities include several American restaurants & bars, a good # of cafes, the Bridgeville Historic Society, there is a cineplex just north of the Borough in Collier Township.
* Good retail amenities include a supermarket, a drug store, several boutiques, a couple antiques, a couple hardware stores, a  couple of banks, gyms, and bookstores, a bookstore, a public library, local post office. A major shopping plaza is just north of Bridgeport with a home depot, supermarket TJ MAX and lots of other stores but access is dicey for pedestrians.
* Good historic architecture.
* Mix of good and fair urban massing.
* Good tree canopy in the residential areas but pretty limited in the main St.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty poor.
* ADA infrastructure is pretty decent along the Biz Corridor but very hit or miss along the residential streets. Plenty of missing ADA curbs and often missing segments of sidewalk.
* Overall transit access is so .
* Connectivity is fair.
* No bike infrastructure here.
* With 90% of the population as White, racial diversity is limited here.
* Bridgeville is in a good school district, Chartiers School district, but only a small elementary school is walkable and located within the borough.
* Some rental product but generally affordable. 1-beds lease btwn 700 & the low 1Ks, 2-beds around 1K but not many of them.
* Culturally Bridgeville is missing any art galleries, there are few museums, limited live music venues.
* Limited modern in-fill
* Streetscaping is ok but pretty tired.

McDonald, PA- A small borough located on the Allegheny/Washington County Line

Like many small boroughs in Western Pennsylvania, McDonald was established in the late 1880s around light manufacturing. By 1900 the town hosted 2,400 residents and peaked at 3,500 in 1950s. Since then the population has declined by nearly half and just over 2,000 souls resident in McDonald.

While McDonald is in the Pittsburgh MSA, it feels pretty disconnected to the Pittsburgh Metro. There is no Port Authority Service here and its surrounded by woods and farmland. But McDonald is only a 1/2 hour drive to Downtown Pittsburgh. This is one of the less developed sides of the Pittsburgh Metro. From an urban perspective McDonald has stable housing, largely in-tact but gritty and often vacant commercial buildings. The community does have several important amenities including a Giant Eagle, a local library and post office, a handful of shops and restaurants, good parks, and overall a pretty safe community. The only way for this to become a thriving urban area is more people. But without a major wave of immigrants I don’t see McDonald changing much (other than continuing its slow decline) anytime soon.

Click here to view my album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Decent connectivity.
* Excellent economic and generational diversity.
* Lots of affordable and moderately priced SF homes with prices ranging anywhere btwn 75K-335K
* Pretty good tree canopy.
* McDonald hosts a pair of medium sized parks (Heritage and East End Parks) with good recreational and sports amenities.
* Overall a pretty safe community.
* A set of very nice historic business buildings and pretty good historic homes as well.
* Good urban form in the core of Dwtn. But it drops off outside of the core and becomes pretty auto centric.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Pretty low density for an urban center.
* Very limited public transit here.
* Driving to Dwtn and Oakland only takes about an hour but very limited public transit options.
* ADA compliant ramps is hit or miss. Sidewalks missing on about 1/3 of streets.
* Nice recreational bike trail cutting through town, but other than that no other bike amenities.
* Limited racial diversity as McDonald’s population is 90% White.
* Rental options are very limited.
* Several well rated schools are a 10-15 minute drive. But none of them are walkable.
* Cultural amenities are limited to a handful of restaurants & bars, a historic theater (now an event space), and the Calwell Historic Home (now an B&B).
* McDonald has some retail amenities including a Giant Eagle, a couple pharmacies, a couple banks, several salons/barber shops, a local post office, a couple antique and home good stores, a gym, a local public library, and several churches.
* Very limited modern in-fill and what does exist is generally crummy auto centric bldgs.

Washington, PA- Heart of the Whiskey Rebellion

Washington PA has a long history going back to colonial times. Washington was first settled by colonists around 1768 by mostly Northern Irish and Scottish immigrants. It is not surprisingly then that an open rebellion broke out when the new US government decided to tax the Whiskey production in Western PA. This resulted in the well known ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ of 1791. Fortunately things settled down in Washington and the Washington & Jefferson (a small liberal arts college) was established and the town was incorporated as a borough in 1810. Washington is also located along the Marcellus Shale  formation and had several oil booms in its history including the turn of the 19th century and more recently.  Washington’s population peaked in 1950 at 26K souls but has decreased in half to only 13K today. Fortunately its decline slowed significantly between 2010 and 2020.

Given its significant population decline its not surprising there are many blighted areas of Washington, but it has not completely lost its form and many of the Downtown buildings (especially along Main St) are still in-tact. There are some signs of rebirth as population decline is slowing and new food and beverage businesses are opening again downtown. Washington also has several walkable schools with decent ratings, lots of affordable housing, and decent cultural and retail amenities. To become a quality urban environment again Washington needs more people and businesses. The City also suffers from a lack of any bike infrastructure, limited public transit access and park spaces, and a pretty high crime rate.

Click here to view my Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Good generational diversity (thanks in large part to the college) and economic diversity.
* Several walkable schools with decent ratings.
* Some rentals available and very affordable.1 & 2 -beds lease btwn 700K-1,000, and 3-beds btwn 1K-1.5K
* For sale is also very affordable . Very limited 1-bed product selling btwn 40K-75K. 2-beds btwn 50K-250K, 3 & 4 beds is similar but with some product selling btwn 250K-300K.
* ADA infrastructure is very good in parts and pretty bad in others.
* Culturally a decent # of restaurants & bars, a couple cafes breweries & art galleries, a couple local museums and local theaters. Washington also has a local symphony and good performing arts coming from Washing & Jefferson College.
* Decent but not great retail amenities including a Shop n Save and large Mexican grocerias & local farmer’s market, several dollar stores, a couple drug stores, several consignment shops & gift stores, a couple antique stores, several banks, a dwtn library & post office, a local hospital, and plenty of churches.
* Urban form and streetscaping is good in Dwtn but pretty poor outside of Dwtn. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is pretty low.
* There is a local; Washington Co transit system and a commuter bus to Dwtn but I sense its pretty limited. Commute takes over an hr to Dwtn. To drive to Dwtn Pittsburgh is 40 mins.
* No bike infrastructure here.
* Only one park within my evaluation area although there are several on the edges of the City. Pretty limited park amenities overall.
* Crime is high in spots but overall not terrible in Washington. Certainly areas of blight still remain.

Avalon, PA- A quaint Pittsburgh inner-ring suburb along the Ohio River

Avalon was incorporated as a distinct municipality in 1875 starting out as a small community of a couple hundred families. The City  was named after the legendary island of Avalon (“land of apples”) on account of there being several orchards in the area. By 1900 the borough reached 2,000 people and with the help of a streetcar and train line it reached 6,000 by 1940. Population maxed out at 7,000 souls in 1970 and Avalon has been losing people ever since and is down to 4,500 currently. Yet Avalon still feels very in tact and has been a recent destination of single family home renovations and strengthening real estate market.

Avalon also has decent main street buildings that with more investment in the community could lead to many more locally owned businesses and vibrancy. Other urban assets include: a good mix of affordable and moderately price rentals and for sale options thanks to the community’s flexible zoning laws, good tree canopy, solid parks, safety, excellent economic diversity, and decent historic architecture.

Urban areas where Avalon could improve include much more bike infrastructure, more retail and especially cultural amenities, and better urban massing along the state route 65, a very autocentric boulevard.

Click here to view my Avalon, PA album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Sidewalks are on 95% of the streets but ADA current ramps are more often absent.
* Overall a pretty safe community.
* Excellent economic diversity and very good generational diversity.
* Good access to downtown with both good driving and bus access.
* Decent rental options and affordable. 1-beds lease for $700-1K, 2-beds around $1,000s  and 3-beds in the low $1,000s.
* Good for sale diversity as well with a good # of 1 bed condos selling btwn 50K-125K, 2 beds btwn 75K and high 100Ks, 3-beds a bit more expensive extending into the low 200Ks, and 4 & 5 beds into the high 200Ks and low 300Ks.
* Great tree canopy especially in the hillside areas.
* Solid park amenities around Spruce Run.
* Pretty good historic architecture.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* No bike lanes infrastructure.
* Cultural amenities are pretty limited to several restaurants & bars, and some chain coffee stores, a small local theater.
* Retail amenities are a bit better including several clothing stores, a bank, a drug store, florist, a couple barbershops & salons,  several auto centric businesses on 65 and walkable access to a supermarket (and many other amenities) that’s located in adjacent Bellevue.
* Decent but not great schools access with one well rated elementary schools and the schools in Bellevue (some school district) are somewhat walkable.
* Some very crummy modern in-fill along 65 but some good modern apartments/condos.
* Urban massing is a mixed bag. Pretty awful along 65 as its a auto centric blvd but very good massing along Lincoln Ave.

Emsworth, PA- a sleepy Pittsburgh historic suburb along the Ohio River

This small borough along the Ohio River in Allegheny County  Population arose in the 1870s and grew to 1,000 residents by 1900 taking advantage of its proximity to factory jobs along the Ohio and convenient rail service to Dwtn Pittsburgh. Emsworth’s population peaked in 1970 with just over 3,000 residents but has shrunk by about 1,000 souls. 

Emsworth’s attraction lies in its convenience to Dwtn; only a 15 minute drive and around a 30 minute bus ride to during commuting hours. It also has a stable set of single family homes in a quite and safe neighborhood setting. This has led to rising homes prices and it is now difficult to purchase a nice home here for less than 200K. But from an urban perspective there are lots of deficiencies mainly due to the Borough’s lack of retail and cultural amenities. Density is also low and ADA and bike infrastructure are lacking. My hope is that Emsworth and its neighboring inner ring suburbs urbanize and densify around improved public transit connections. There are plans by the Port Authority to re-open dedicated rail to the north Ohio river suburbs.

Click here to view my Emsworth Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Density access is so  but only a 15 minute drive to Dwtn and 20 minutes if you time the bus right. Oakland about 40 minutes by bus.
* Solid economic and generational diversity.
* Some nice historic homes but nothing spectacular.
* Solid tree canopy.
* For sale homes are moderately priced but stable. Product sells anywhere btwn high 100Ks to the low 300Ks.
* Emsworth Community Park is a solid and expansive park really nothing else.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Urban density is rather poor.
* No dedicated bike lanes.
* ADA infrastructure and sidewalks are pretty hit or miss. Generally sidewalks but more often than not ADA infrastructure is not up to date.
* Limited racial diversity.
* Limited modern in-fill and most of it is auto centric.
* Some mixed-use development on Centre, which has decent urban, massing but most of the commercial is along state route 65 which is auto centric. It has sidewalks but they are located right next to fast moving traffic.
* The only school in the City is a small but quality Catholic High School. At least its walkable.
* Rentals are also moderately priced but very limited.
* Cultural amenities limited to a handful of restaurants, bars, a brewery, and a art gallery.
* Retail amenities limited to a handful of salons, a barber shop, a chiropractor, several churches, and some auto centric retail uses.

Olde Kensington- a renewed industrial hub on Philly’s Northside

Like most inner-city Philadelphia neighborhoods, Olde Kensington has roots in colonial Philadelphia. It was conceived in 1730 by  a wealthy provincial councilor named Anthony Palmer to become a mirror of upscale London, with regal sounding street names like Hanover, Prince (Girard) and Bishop (Berks). Gradually, however, it proximity to the waterfront and rail lines lent the neighborhood more to manufacturing and Olde Kensington ultimately became a quite the North Philly industrial hub centered along American St. One can still see vestiges of its regal ambitions with grand Italianate flats along 2nd Ave.

After World War II, the neighborhood began to decline due to deindustrialization and abandonment became commonplace in Olde Kensington, although not as widespread as other North Philly neighborhoods like Sharswood or Cecil B. Moore. Since the 2000s the gentrification of the surrounding districts of Northern Liberties and Fishtown spilled over into Olde Kensington drawn by its more affordable rents and loft spaces. Many industrial spaces have also been converted into artistic workspaces and interesting mixed-use buildings. The City recently made major infrastructure investments  along American St, giving it a road diet and adding dedicated bike lanes, and creating a boulevard. The neighborhood is now seeing significant renovation projects and in-fill leading to a rapid ride in housing costs.

The biggest missing piece in Olde Kensington from an urbanist perspective is more retail amenities. Girard is the closest thing the district has to a business district but its not very consistant. Park amenities and Bike infrastructure are also limited. I hope the district can produce more affordable housing to offset district’s rapid price increases. There are plenty of vacant lots remaining.

  

Click here to view my Olde Kensington Flick Album

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* ADA curbs are pretty consistant along the commercial streets but hit or miss on the residential streets. But better than most Philly neighborhoods.
* Great racial diversity. Also very good economic distribution but too high of a poverty rate (around 25%).
* Cultural amenities include a very diverse array of restaurants, several bars, distilleries, and breweries, a handful of art galleries, a couple local museums, and a local theater. Also convenient access to the plethora of cultural amenities in adjacent Northern Liberties and Fishtown.
* Neighborhood amenities include convenient access to Acheme Markets, many ethnic grocerias, several drug stores, several boutiques, convenient access to a couple post offices and a library, a couple bike stores. Several churches open across a decent diversity of denominations but not a ton. These are concentrated along Girard Street but decent mix of uses throughout. Also good access to amenities in surrounding districts like Fishtown and Northern Liberties.
* Only a handful of smaller schools within Olde Kensington but plenty in surrounding neighborhoods that are still very walkable.
* Generally very good architecture with the historic warehouses, a fair amount of more elaborate rowhouses mixed in and great urban in-fill.
* Urban massing is generally pretty good but some vacant lots and industrial uses still existing along American and Cecil B. Moore. Urban streetscaping is pretty tired and uninspiring with the major exception of American St. which is getting a complete make over and road diet. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Bike infrastructure a bit limited. Only dedicated lanes along American Street and a handful of dedicated bike stations.
* Generational diversity is deceit but not great.
* For sale prices are beginning to look like Northern Liberties in Olde Kensington, especially the eastern half and southern edge. Still some modest price homes selling in the high 200Ks and look 300Ks. There are mainly smaller condos/townhouses. The majority of homes selling anywhere between 400K-800K. These are either renovated or new product.
* Rentals are pretty expensive as well with 1-bedrooms leasing in the $1,000s, 2 bedrooms in the mid 1000s to low $2,000s. and 3-bedrooms in the 2Ks and low 3Ks. Some dedicated affordable apts are present here.
* Park amenities within and near Olde Kensington but there is the Hancock Playground  and Cruz playground/recreational center.
* No active hospitals within or adjacent to the neighborhood.
* Crime does not appear to be a major issue in Olde Kensington but still a decent amount of blight remains here.
* Tree canopy is wanting. 

Fishtown- One of my favorite Philly neighborhoods

Fishtown is a largely working class Irish Catholic neighborhood, but has recently seen a large influx of young urban professionals and gentrification. The name Fishtown derives from the major original occupation of its residents. Early settlers were fishermen and over time they controlled the fishing rights to both sides of the Delaware River from Cape May to the falls at Trenton, NJ. The neighborhood was originally built up by German immigrants in the early-mid 19th century followed by Polish and Irish Catholic immigrants in the late 19th century. Poverty grew in Fishtown in the 70s-80s after many good jobs left during the deindustrialization era, however many of Fishtown’s workers stayed keeping the neighborhood for slipping into widespread poverty like so many surrounding North Philly districts.

This neighborhood is one of my favorites in Philly. This may surprise some, but Fishtown’s recent revitalization builds upon an existing neighborhood with quality urban fabric. Fishtown is very similar to the better South Philly neighborhoods but it still retains good economic diversity and its improving its racial diversity. Housing is certainly increasing here but much lower the “hot” neighborhoods like Northern Liberties to the south. Plenty of 2 & 3 bedrooms selling for 200K/300K. Fishtown’s recent gentrification has certainly added to its retail and cultural amenities. My biggest concern for the future is that rising housing prices will spiral out of control as this is such an attractive urban area. City leaders would be wise to building a significant amount of affordable housing here immediately. Other urban metrics where the district could improve include better street trees and bike infrastructure, ADA curbs, and more generational diversity. 

Click here to view my Fishtown Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Excellent density at nearly 25K per square mile.
* Solid architecture both modern infill and historic buildings.
* Great access to Dwtn as its well connected to a heavy rail line, short drive, and very bikeable via Delaware Avenue.
* Bike infrastructure is good but not great. Delaware and York have dedicated lanes and a handful of dedicated bike stations.
* While housing is getting price here lots of for-sale variety and sales prices thanks to the diverse housing stock. Plenty of smaller 2 & 3 bedrooms (rowhouses & condos) selling in the 200Ks and low 300Ks in good condition. Medium sized renovations or new construction 3 & 4 bedrooms selling between 350-500K. Higher end and larger product selling between 500K-800K. This is mostly new construction.
* Nice array of well dispersed smaller/diverse parks. Decent riverfront park as well.
* Great cultural amenities including a plethora of restaurants, bars, breweries, and cafes. Also a good amount of art galleries, a couple local theaters and live music venues.  No museums though.
* Good retail amenities as well including several smaller grocerias, a food co-op, and two discount groceries. Also convenient access to Giant, which is just over the line in Northern Liberties. Other amenities include a couple drug stores, lots of banks, great array of unique and creative stores, boutiques, thrift stores, a post office, and public library.
* Lots of walkable elementary/middle schools in Fishtown w/ generally decent rankings. View high schools.
* Commercial districts generally have very good urban form but decent streetscaping.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Good ADA infrastructure on commercial streets (Girard & Frankford) but hit or miss in the residential streets.
* Rentals are pretty plentiful but on the higher end. 1-bedrooms  lease in the low-mid $1,000s, 2-bedrooms generally in the high $1,000s and low $2,000s, and good amount of 3-bedrooms leasing anywhere between the high $1,000s and 3Ks.
* Some dedicated aff. housing but certainly less than ideal.
* Delaware Ave is pretty industrial and doesn’t have the best urban form or streetscaping.