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.¬†

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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.

Sharswood- North Philly’s next district to revitalize

Sharswood is a small neighborhood located between Cecil B. Moore, 25th Street, Ridge, and College Ave. The district is named after Georges Sharswood, a Pennsylvania jurist. The district is comprsied of mostly 3-story large rowhouses built in the 1870s-1890s. Like much of North Philly, the district experienced significant disinvestment starting in the 1960s. Sharswood was hit especially badly and has lost nearly all its business districts along Cecil B. Moore and Ridge Ave. The neighborhood has only recently begun its long path to revitalization starting with quality historic renovations and a sprinkling of infill rowhouses. The Philly Housing Authority is also investing heavily with its new headquarters and a mixed-use development along Ridge Ave.

Hopefully Sharswood’ revitalization continues with a healthy amount of affordable housing mixed in. Its seems to be moving in that directly. More of a challenge than building new housing will be recreating the district’s historic business districts along Ridge Ave and Cecil B. Moore. But the neighborhood has a lot going for it with its close proximity to Center City (2.5 miles) and stable adjacent districts to the west and south (Brewerytown and Francisville to the west and south). 
Click here to view my Sharswood Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great public transit service and solid access to Central City.
* Solid racial and family diversity.
* Rental housing is certainly cheaper than most Philly neighborhoods but more than you expect with a district that still has a lot of blight and disinvestment. 1-bedrooms go in the lot-mid $1,000s. And 2-bedrooms in the mid-high $1,000s. 3 bedrooms around 2K. But this is nicely renovated apts. Plenty of affordable hsg in the neighborhood. The Housing Authority is currently constructing a new mixed-use development on Ridge Rd.
* For Sale prices are definitively on the upswing here, but still a good mix. Unrenovated 2&3 bedrooms selling in the high 100Ks and low 200s. Smaller but renovated homes selling in the 200ks-mid300Ks. Larger renovated or new build selling between mid 300Ks to about 500K. Few condo units.
* Good connectivity and decent neighborhood border but few landmark buildings or nodes to create a strong sense of imageability here.
* Mix of quality and bland modern infill. There is more and more quality contextual in-fill rowhouses popping up but also a large affordable housing development from the 1990s that is quite bland.
* Nothing special about the streetscape of Ridge and Cecil Moore but at least the sidewalks are in decent shape and new ADA curb cuts have been installed.
* Good density even though the district has largely emptied out from its historic peak population. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Most intersections have curb cuts but most do not have up to date ADA curbs.
* Bike access not great. The district does include a couple dedicated bike stations but no bike lanes.
* High poverty rate at 30% but still some economic diversity here.
* Tree cover isn’t that great here.
* Few parks within the district (other than a couple urban gardens and small plazas). A couple of nice recreational centers in nearby districts.
* Cultural amenities are limited as there are few restaurants, no bars or cafes. At least the district is within a mile of some descent biz district (Girard in Brewerytown and Broad St).
* Neighborhood services aren’t much better. But some services remain including a local pharmacy, plenty of mini marts/small grocerias, and a public library.
* Crime is certainly above average and plenty of blight here, even though some revitalization efforts are underway.
* A nice array of walkable schools within Sharwood but generally of poor quality.
* Urban form is good where buildings are still standing. Lots of vacant lots along Cecil Moore and Ridge, the historic biz districts.
* Sharswood is still considered a rough district but some buzz and new in-fill development started around 2019-2020. 

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

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* 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.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 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.