Lower North Philadelphia

Jake Blumgart tells some of the stories of Philadelphia’s fringe neighborhoods as the Democrats converge on South Philadelphia for their convention. The neighborhoods Blumgart focuses on most have been strongholds of stability and integration where median incomes are nonetheless falling and divestment is a far larger problem than gentrification.

Paul Levy’s Center City District is highlighted for its tremendous success in revitalizing Philadelphia’s civic core. Yet at the same time, the failure to address good schooling for families citywide, and the crime and divestment of places like Lower North Philadelphia, are highlighted as examples of the structural problem of poverty for this city.

If we’re talking about Philadelphia as a whole (or any city, really) I don’t really care about gentrification, bececause gentrification is a “problem of success.” I think conversations about gentrification are often really conversations about the latest generation of integrating new and long-term neighbors.

It’s the structural poverty, and the total divestment by Philadelphians from places like Lower North Philadelphia—a place that had nearly 300,000 residents in 1950, but only 95,000 in 2010.

If the Center City District’s success is to be replicated elsewhere, maybe the Center City District and its supporters could incubate an energetic North Philadelphia District with a vision for growth and magnetism.

Everything starts with vision, and vision starts with seeing more of Philadelphia than Center City.