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


* 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.


* 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.

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


* 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.


* 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


* 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 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


* 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. 


* 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


* 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.


* 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. 

Poplar- Philly’s Northside district with aspirations to become a truly mixed-income neighborhood

Originally, the neighborhood was composed mostly of single-family row houses and with some industry and active commercial streets along Girard, Broad, Ridge, and Spring Garden. The depression interestingly lead to widespread disinvestment in Poplar several decades before its adjacent northside neighborhoods. This prompted the City to raze much of the historic fabric in the 1930s and build Richard Allen Homes, one of the City’s first large public housing projects. The Richard Allen Homes remained Poplar’s defining physical characteristic for the next several decades. Budget cuts by the City in the 60s lead to an egregious degree of deterioration compounded by poorly planned open spaces. This encouraged crime and gave Poplar notoriety as a center for crime and drug trafficking in the 1970s and 1980s. Allen Homes and the Cambridge Plaza high-rise were demolished in the early 2000s and replaced with more suburban-style duplexes and single-family homes. I find most of this replacement housing rather bland and unsensitive to the surrounding urban context, but the redevelopment appears to have greatly reduced blight and crime in the neighborhood.

The edges of Poplar is where the best urban fabric remains. Broad Street still retains much of its grand mid-level urban fabric housing a good array of cultural amenities. Its intersection with Ridge Street has become an excellent urban node with TOD like development near the Fairmount Metro Station. Spring Garden is gritty but is becoming an interesting historic mixed-use area. There is also a good amount of historic rowhouses along the southern and eastern edges of the neighborhood. Girard Street is the least attractive thoroughfare sadly succumbing to the twin forces of blight and auto centric development. My hope is the neighborhood becomes a shinning example of a mixed-income neighborhood. Poplar already hosts a high percentage of affordable housing and has significant room of new market rate development. The neighborhood could use particular attention to building up its retail/neighborhood amenities along its commercial corridors, reconstructing Girard street, eliminating remaining blight, and creating more parks and recreational amenities.

Click here to view my Poplar Album in Flickr


* Great public transit access and convenient access to Dwtn.
* Good array of dedicated bike lanes and a handful of bike stations in the district.
* Great racial diversity in the district.
* Tons of subsidized units. In really they probably make too high a pct% of the housing units but seem like a good building point as the district fills in with market rate housing. Market rate rentals concentrated along the SW edge, Girard Street, and the Poplar’s east border with Northern Liberties. Some 1-bedrooms leasing in the low to mid $1,000s. 2-bedroom are more plentiful and rent the whole range of $1,000s. Also some 3-bedrooms lease in the 1Ks and 2Ks.
* Decent tree cover helped by all the recent Public Housing Projects.
* Cultural amenities concentrated along Broad, Spring Garden and near Northern Liberties. They include a good array of restaurants, a decent # of bars, cafes & breweries, several art galleries, Philly MOCA, the Jewish Museum of Art, the Met and a couple live music venues.
* Retail amenities are ok. They include an Aldi’s but plenty of little grocerias, several drug stores, a public library, post office, a handful of banks and boutiques, and a Target just SE of the Poplar boundaries.
* Pretty good school options including several decent public and charter schools within the district. Easy access to several more in surrounding areas.


* Most intersections have curb cuts but most do not have up to date ADA curbs.
* Economic diversity seems to be slowly improving but still a very high poverty rate (42%). Family diversity not great. Only 30% of households are family households.
* For sale homes are very concentrated in the southern and east district edges. Decent amount of condos and smaller 2 & 3 bedroom flats selling in the high 200Ks and 300Ks. Should be more of this product however. At least 1/2 of the for sale product is larger/higher end homes selling between 400K-700K.
* Recreational amenities aren’t great but several worth mentioning including Poplar Park, the John F Street Community Center, an Carrie Turner Community Park. Some parks within a 1/3 mile of the districts boundaries.
* Good amount of blight still in the community but much of it cleared away by urban renewal. Girard def the most blighted/autocentric/uninspiring street in the district. Crime is prob still moderate but much better than past decades.
* The District’s best urban form and streetscaping is along Broad, Spring Garden and the Southern and eastern edges of the neighborhood. This is also where the best historic architecture lies.

Brewerytown- Philly’s historic Germantown

I used the boundaries of Cecil B Moore and Popular to the north and south and Fairmount Park and N 25th to the west and east.  Brewerytown got its name because of the numerous breweries that were located along the Schuylkill River during the turn of 20th century. Proximity to the river and nearby farmland allowed these establishments to flourish. By the early 20th century Brewerytown was a thriving German settlement. Two world wars and prohibition certainly did a number on the German heritage of Brewerytown but its wasn’t until the 1970s that the neighborhood went down hill. North Philly’s economic depression spread to the district, especially the north and eastern edges. Sadly much of this was along racial lines.

Brewerytown benefitted from the slow revitalization expansion  of the Fairmount neighborhood from the south, although its pretty clear that the southern half of the district witnessed much less deterioration than the northern half.  Brewerytown’s biz district Girard Ave is an attractive in-tact district with a good mix of businesses and restaurants but definitively still gritty. Many of the breweries on the western edge of the district have been renovated into lofts and plenty of good infill as well. Master St is more or less the dividing street between blight and renovation. The contrast is stark juxtaposed with blocks that have new in-fill and others with almost none and plenty of vacant blocks.

Hopefully the renovation of the rest of Brewerytown continues to the northern and the eastern sections of the neighborhood. While this will certainly raise gentrification concerns there is actually a nice array of price points with for-sale options. Rental housing, however, is much more expensive. Hopefully affordable rental housing will be more intentionally built. Brewerytown could also use better bike infrastructure and tree cover, more consistant ADA infrastructure, a complex streetscaping rehaul on Girard, and more neighborhood services and cultural amenities. 
Click here to view my Brewerytown album on Flickr


* Solid density.
* Good diversity especially economic diversity. The median income hovers around the City average of 47K. Mix of all types of incomes although still too much poverty (around 1/3 of households).
* Excellent array of price points of for sale housing. Good array of modest 1-3 bedroom flats and condos selling in the high 100Ks and 200Ks. Modest but well renovated or new construction selling in the 300KS and 400Ks. The top end of the market are large new (or recently renovated) 3 & 4 bedrooms selling in the 500Ks & 600k.
* Quality park and recreation assets esp. with Fairmount park on the neighborhood’s eastern border. Athletic Recreation Square also bring a rec center, pool, playground and Jefferson St. Park a basketball court & playground.
* Culturally a nice array of restaurants, bars, and cafes especially along Girard the district’s primary main street. Also a handful of art galleries and breweries.
* Solid neighborhood amenities including: a bike shops, a pharmacy, several local clothing stores, an ALDI’s supermarket, several hair salons, a butcher shop, a bank.
* A decent 3 of walkable schools within and nearby the district, but generally ranked poor or mediocre.
* Solid modern in-fill architecture particularly good with fitting into the existing urban form.
* Generally very good form including the main biz district along Girard. The vacant lots of the district northern and eastern edge certainly takes away from Brewery town’s overall urban form.


* Generally good ADA infrastructure limited ADA current ramps on residential districts.
* Bike infrastructure could be better. District includes one dedicated bike lane running along Fairmount Park and a handful of dedicated bike stations.
* Good array of rental housing but a bit on the expensive side. 1-bedrooms lease in the low-mid $1,000s. 2-bedrooms span the $1,000s topping out around 2K. 3-bedrooms a mix of the mid 1,000s to 2Ks.
* No theaters or museums within Brewerytown  but only about 1.5-2 miles from many options in Logan Square.
* Still a lot of blight and abandonment in the northern half of the district (north of Master’s Street). Amazing how start the change is from one block to another.
* Streetscaping is fine but nothing inspiring. I wish they would invest in a revamped streetscape along Girard.
* Tree cover is not great but not terrible. Certainly much to be desired including only a smattering of trees along Girard. 

Spring Garden- A Stately District in North Philly

 The Spring Garden district is between Fairmount Ave and Spring Garden St, Fairmount Park and Broad Street. The district goes back to the early 1800s as estates close to Fairmount Park were subdivided up and filled in. The district really took off between 1850 to 1876 and grew to over 60K. The district is still dense but hosts about half this population. Thanks to its extensive history, Spring Garden hosts a diverse array of attractive historic styles including Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Venetian Gothic. Most streets contain the classic Philly “terraced” set ups with small gardened plots, often raised, in the front of homes. Most rowhouses are of the denser 3+4 story variety highly conducive to single floor flats.

Spring Garden is only 1 mile from City Hall, the heart of Central City. This gives the district convenient access to the many amenities of Central City (e.g. great museums, culture & night life, job access, park amenities, and even good retail options. Spring Garden also has solid neighborhood retail and restaurant options along Fairmount Ave. and Spring Garden St., many walkable schools, and quality urban form. Because of its convenient access to Central City its not surprising how expensive Spring Garden is. The district has decent racial and income diversity, but poor generational diversity as few families reside here. Other than creating more affordable housing, my hopes for Spring Garden is that it’s eastern border along Broad St. fills in with quality mixed-use development. This would bring more amenities and vibrancy to the district.
Click here to view my Spring Garden album on Flickr


* Excellent multi-model options and very walkable neighborhood. Dwtn less than a mile away.
* Nice park assets with convenient access to Fairmount Park. The Spring Gardens and Clemente Park also provides a diversity of recreational amenities right in the middle of the district.
* Solid tree cover, especially the western half of the district. 
* Maybe a bit gritty along Broad St. but otherwise a very safe district.
* Excellent historic architecture, especially the mid-late 19th century mansions near Fairmount Park.
* Nice array of walkable school options both public and private covering most age groups. Also good access to some quality school options dwtn as well.
* Solid urban form in the biz districts. Good streetscaping on Broad, decent on Fairmount, but uninspiring along Spring Garden.
* Solid cultural amenities when one also includes the amenities within 1 mile walk. Within the district  there are a decent # of restaurants, bars, and cafes especially along Fairmount and Spring Garden. The neighborhood also hosts the Jewish Museum of  Art, the Philadelphia Museum of art and the quirky Keen Collection. One also needs to include the many museums located on the district’s southern border (e.g. Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, Rodin Museum, Franklin Institute, and much more).
* Good retail amenities. Supermarket’s include a couple local stores, ALDI’s and Wholefoods, several drug stores. Other amenities include:  a hardware store, bookstore, plenty of banks, a bike store, boutiques, and a decent amount of unique stores along Fairmount and a Target only 1/4 mile from the district. 


* Generally good ADA infrastructure but up to date ADA curb ramps are missing at most intersections.
* Majority of residents are young adults and limited family households.
* Median incomes are pretty high but still a decent diversity of incomes.
* For sale housing is pretty expensive but a good amount of moderately priced 1 & 2 bedroom condos selling in the 200Ks, 300Ks & 400Ks. Some 3-bedrooms in the 500Ks & 600ks but plenty more expensive. 4-bedrooms start around 700K and go up into the low 1 Millions.
* While there is a good amount of  rentals they are pretty expensive. 1-bedrooms going in the low to mid $1,000s. 2-bedrooms high $1,000s and low 2Ks. 3 beds in the $2,000s.
* Modern in-fill is pretty limited but some nice contextual historic infill and modern condos near Fairmount Park.

Fairmount- An attractive Philly neighborhood well on the road to recovery

There are several sub-districts in Fairmount. I decided for evaluation purposes, due to size and individual identity, to include Francisville in this eval but to exclude Spring Garden as a separate district. The neighborhood boundaries are therefore Spring Garden to the South, Popular/Girard to the north, Broad to the east, and Pennsylvania Ave. to the west.

Prominent city families established countryseats in Fairmount in the 1700s & 1800s especially along the Schuylkill River. The Eastern State Penitentiary was built further inland in 1829. Development really came in force in the mid-late 19th century with the construction of many rowhouses to support a growing number of factories and breweries in the area. Francisville likely was a separate village established along a stagecoach stop.

Historically  Fairmount was home to working class and middle class families. A divide occurred in the 1960s where the eastern  half of the district (generally east of Corinth), primarily centered on the Francisville sub-district,  fell into disrepair and blight. West of Corinth remained stable. Sadly this was largely along racial lines. South of Fairmount Ave is the Spring Garden district which historically was a high-end district with larger flats. The western half of Fairmount also gentrified first. It is only within the past decade that areas east of Corinth have seen significant investment. Because of the deep distress of the neighborhood, investment is bringing an explosion of in-fill and thankfully of a high urban quality.

Most of the commercial amenities are along Fairmount Ave. Ridge Ave and Broad Ave were historically thriving business districts but are taking longer to recover than near by residential areas. In 5 years I’m confident that Ridge Ave will once again be a thriving biz district resembling Northern Liberties in many ways. Hopefully the same is true for Broad Avenue. That street is just to well built and iconic to remain blighted and underutilized.
Click here to view my Fairmount and Francisville Neighborhood on Flickr


* Great Density, transit access, and overall walkability.
* Fairmount sits only 1-1.5 miles from Downtown.
* Good bike access with a bike lane along Fairmount Ave and Pennsylvania Ave along with several bike stations.
* Very attractive rowhouses with a mix of higher end and worker housing. Very attractive historic commercial bldgs along Broad St.
* Generally West of 22nd Street is most White and east is mostly Black. But the with revitalization, the line is being more blurred. Median income follows very similar lines.
* About 50% of households are family, a high pct for the City.
* Excellent modern in-fill with a high level of urban form closely resembling the form of historic buildings.
* Great access to the main recreational amenities of Fairmount Park, esp. the western half of the neighborhood. Also a nice recreational amenities at Francisville Playground (Rec center, pool, playground, and ballfield). Really no other rec spaces in the district.
* Fairmount, Broad, and Ridge are the main comm. areas but also some businesses mixed into residential areas in the western half of the District.
* Generally good urban in the biz districts but some auto centric dead spots along Broad and Ridge. Hopefully with rapid redevelopment (esp. on Ridge) these wholes will be filled in with good form.
* Good of array of decently rated schools. Lots of private school options. Girard College is basically a boarding school for the underprivileged.
* Solid cultural amenities when one also includes the amenities within 1 mile walk. Within the district  there are a decent # of restaurants, bars, and cafes especially along Fairmount. A couple great live music venues including the Met Philadelphia, and the South jazz club is just south of Fairmount. The district also hosts Eastern State Penitentiary. One also needs to include the many museums located on the neighborhood’s boundaries or within a mile walk (e.g. Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, Rodin Museum, Franklin Institute, and much more).
* Solid retail amenities esp. when you include stores in adjacent district but walkable. There is an Aldi’s & Whole foods on the neighborhood’s edge and a small grocery within it. Other amenities include: a couple drug stores, a hardware store, bookstore, plenty of banks, and a decent amount of unique stores along Fairmount. Target is 0.5-1 from the district depending were you live. 


* For-sale Housing getting expensive but still a good amount of moderately priced housing existing. 2-3 bedroom rowhouses selling in the 300Ks & 400Ks Larger/newer or more renovated homes selling between 500K-800K.
* Lots of rental options but also pretty expensive. 1-bedrooms leasing around $1,000s and 2-bedrooms in the mid 1,000s-$2,000. Some dedicated rentals mixed in.
* Decent tree cover in the western half of Fairmount not so great around Francisville. Sadly this matched closely race and wealth lines of the two areas.
* Generally a safe community although still some blighted areas and rough patches along the eastern edges of the district.
* Generally good ADA infrastructure but some missing sidewalks (sometimes due to development) in Francisville and not consistent ADA modern ramps, esp. in the res. streets.

Sheraden- A westside urban district with convenient access to Dwtn Pittsburgh

Originally incorporated as Sheraden Borough in 1894, Sheridan quickly grew and was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1907. The neighborhood became a hub for Irish and German immigrants in the early 20th century. Like most European Ethnic groups most families moved to the suburbs in the 70s on the westside leaving a large African American population behind. 

Sheraden has struggled ever since shedding at least several thousand residents leading to many pockets of blight and disinvestment. The commercial districts along Chartiers and the Sheraden and Hillsboro node also suffered as well leaving a handful of bars and restaurants, a dollar store, and several convenience stores. Yet with the rise in interest and values in Pittsburgh since the 2000s, Sheradan has begun to slowly rebound, most visibly with a rise in price of its attractive turn of the century housing stock now selling in the high 100s and low 200s. There are also several pockets of stable 1950s housing in the Corliss sub district on the hill tops. With a great central park (Sheraden Park), busway access, and downtown only 3.5 miles away, I’m confident the neighborhood will stabilize and hopefully revitalize a couple nice urban business nodes. The speed of this work ready depends on how serious the City of Pittsburgh is about revitalizing its blight. 
Click here to view my Sheraden page on Flickr


* Solid public transit access, especially with the West Bus Way running through the neighborhood.
* Great access to Dwtn via public transit and driving. Access to Oakland a bit challenging via public transit.
* Good racially diversity with a surprisingly large Asian population. Large Pct of family households and good age diversity.
* Large range in housing prices from 25K-the low 200KS depends on condition, size, and amount of blight in a particular section of the neighborhood.
* Sheraden Park is a large and amenity rich park located at the heart of the neighborhood. Several other nice smaller parks throughout.
* Pretty good historic architecture especially in the nicer streets of Sheridan.
* Decent tree cover on the residential streets, excellent along the hill sides and hollers.


* Density is pretty low but better than other Westside neighborhoods.
* Sidewalks are generally pretty consistant but ADA curbs missing in most intersections. Also plenty of sidewalks are not in great condition.
* Very high poverty rate (around 36%) but still decant economic diversity.
* Rental product (at least officially listed) is very low here.
* Retail and cultural amenities are limited to a couple restaurants & bars, a dollar general and several convenience stores. Downtown McKees Rocks has some good amenities a mile away though.
* Crime doesn’t appear to be a more issue here, but still a fair amount of blight.
* One elementary school located is the community is fair at best. A Middle school with a stem focus is located in adjacent Crafton Heights.
* Limited modern in-fill but at least there are some stable 1940-1950 homes on the hillside portions of the neighborhood.
* Decent urban form at the small biz node of Sheraden and Hillsboro. Chartiers is a tired early 20th century mixed-use Pittsburgh run with some good urban form but few open businesses.
* The streetscape is pretty underinvested and has been touched in decades.
* Pedestrian activity is fair at best.