The Hottest Philadelphia City Neighborhoods

From Graduate Hospital to Fishtown, these are the highly coveted, most beloved and fastest-growing hoods that Philly has to offer.

Graduate Hospital

Cooler and cheaper than Rittenhouse, G-Ho’s the new go-to for youngish buyers planting roots in Philly.

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Median home price: $285,500
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 23 percent
Increase in residents with a B.A. or higher (2000 to 2010): 98.4 percent

“If you want to live in a city in the first place,” says real estate agent Amanda Saunders, “it’s about walkability and proximity to the city’s attractions.” Therein lies much of the appeal of G-Ho, which in recent years has exploded into one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. With Rittenhouse and Center City real estate both scarce and expensive going into the mid-2000s, it was only natural for the increasing numbers of city-dwellers to turn to the nearest streets to try and capture what perks they could. This created a self-sustaining momentum: The more people moved there, the more people moved there.

At 8.9 incidents per 1,000 residents, G-Ho is significantly safer than the average Philadelphia neighborhood. According to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, G-Ho also is home to more artists than the average Philly ’hood. The result of it all? Property values increased last year at a rate sure to continue to attract investors, but not so much that the neighborhood is inaccessible to first-time homebuyers. The popularity of G-Ho is also fomenting development in nearby Point Breeze, where the living still qualifies as urban pioneering—but new residents are trickling in.

Single professionals, young marrieds, new parents, and oldsters who knew the neighborhood when the pickings weren’t so lush are all on board, forging the area into a close-knit community. “It’s very special here,” says Andrew Dalzell, programs coordinator of the South of South Neighborhood Association. “I mean, there are the reasons people move here, and then the reason people stay.”

Graduate Hospital: It’s All About the Schools

The big news these days—aside from occasional restaurant openings (hoorah for Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat on South!)—revolves around schools. Three sit within a five-block radius, acting as exhibits A, B and C in the continuing evolution of G-Ho. Edwin Stanton Elementary and Chester A. Arthur, two public schools with not-great Great Schools rankings, have essentially been adopted by the neighborhood’s residents, who have worked and fund-raised to initiate renovations of Stanton’s playground and a $2 million master plan for broad improvements at Chester A. Arthur. The Philadelphia Free School, with tuition assistance available on a sliding scale, signals the neighborhood’s paradigm-busting ambition: Started by former G-Ho residents, the place empowers kids to make up their own curricula and vote on punishments.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see our thoughts on Fishtown/Kensington.

Fishtown/Kensington

That city feel, without the city price.

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Median home price: $169,000
Increase in median household income (1999 to 2011): 37.1 percent
Increase in residents with a B.A. or higher (2000 to 2010): 218.1percent

It’s hard to talk about Frankford Av­enue—the main road running along the western side of Fishtown, leading into Ken­sington—without mentioning Pizza Brain,, the museum/eatery, and Little Baby’s Ice Cream, the artisanal dessert boutique, which have both come to define the area’s renaissance, as young folks clad in skinnies and plaid shirts line up along the block at all hours. But it’s not just the hipsters that have come to love Fishtown/Kenzo; realtor and five-year Fishtown resident Jared Gr­uber says the area is seeing growth from all demos. “I’m even finding empty nesters buying rowhouses in Fishtown,” he says. “You get that city vibe, but not the price tag attached to it.”

No doubt, affordability is a key part of Fishtown’s success these days. Prices are rising steadily, and people are trying to get into a cool, growing neighborhood while they can. (Rule of thumb: Once Stephen Starr invests in an area—as he has here with beer garden Frankford Hall and barbecue joint Fette Sau—you’d better buy in fast.)

Still, it’s not all about the money, or even the food—it’s that the place has a sort of old-school Philly feel. Homeowner Monica Weymouth says it’s that mix of small town and big city that keeps her there: “I can get to 15th and Market in 20 minutes, and our block gets together to celebrate kids’ birthdays and the cherry tree being kind enough to blossom each spring.”

Fishtown/Kenzo: A Uniquely Cool City Experience

  • Fishtown/Kenzo is a hit with … young professionals, new families and empty nesters who want a cheaper, cooler city experience than the cookie-cutter condo scene.
  • Shopping … is kind of nonexistent. “It’d be great to have a hardware store,” bemoans one resident.
  • Nightlife … is lively: arcade games at Barcade, giant beers at Frankford Hall, live music at Johnny Brenda’s.
  • Schools … Same old story as any city ’hood. But keep an eye on the New Kensington Parents Coalition for Better Schools and Play (NKP), making moves to improve quality of life for families.
  • The most prevalent crime … is car break-ins for most of Fishtown, but the further north you go, the more serious the issues. Kensington is gentrifying, but it’s not there yet.
  • Residents’ pet peeves … “When Girard Avenue lets it all hang out—the morning drunks, the smoggy traffic, the empty prescription bottles—it gets to be a bit much,” says one resident.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the scoop on the Avenue of the Arts.

Avenue of the Arts

New condos, new restaurants, and a whole net cachet.

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Median home price: $361,400
Increase in median household income (1999 to 2011): 84.4 percent
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 21.3 percent

flanked by the lofty facades of Philly’s most illustrious cultural buildings but punctuated with fenced-off vacant lots, this slender city artery—from Broad to 16th and Callowhill to Lombard—doesn’t exactly jump off the map as fertile real estate ground. But as developers from Carl Dranoff to Bart Blatstein set their sights on infusing new life into long-empty properties along Broad, the Avenue of the Arts has seen a surge of new apartment buildings, condos and townhouses boasting some of Center City’s most high-end units.

The result? Housing values have skyrocketed to Main Line levels, and for maybe the first time ever, this stretch has become the stomping grounds for edgy young professionals (with a little cash). South Broad, in particular, has undergone a residential renaissance over the past decade, notes Dranoff—a trend he says owes itself to the completion of the Kimmel Center in 2001, which made the neighborhood the heartbeat of the city’s cultural pulse. Since then, buildings like Symphony House (featuring the buzzy Sbraga) and the nearby 777 South Broad (which houses Tashan)—not to mention the proximity of public transit and a robust food-and-drink scene—have lured urban sophisticates and their money. Basically, residents pay top dollar now for these Center City digs for three very important reasons: location, location, location.

Avenue of the Arts: Shopping, Socialites, and Hot City Living

  • Avenue of the Arts is a hit with … socialites and young professionals with the money to be where it’s happening. Think young doctors and athletes.
  • Shopping … isn’t an issue. Start with the cornerstone Banana Republic and work your way west on Walnut.
  • Nightlife … Take your pick of stilettos, cocktails and lounge music (Tashan), or more jersey-and-beer spots like Tavern on Broad.
  • Schools … Philly School District. Residents tend to set their sights on Center City stalwarts (Meredith, Greenfield, McCall), but a lot of local kids also trek to Columbus Charter, at 10th and Christian.
  • Residents’ biggest pet peeve … A decent grocery store nearby wouldn’t go amiss.
  • Neighborhood gossip … Since it’s a straight shot from the stadiums, the Avenue is a popular spot for athletes: Keep your eyes peeled for Phillies, Flyers and Sixers.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the story on Fairmount.

Fairmount

In the past four years, pretty Fairmount has enjoyed more buyers, more housing options, more restaurants … and it shows no signs of slowing.

Median home price: $309,950
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 24.1 percent
Increase in residents aged 20 to 54 (2000 to 2010): 15.9 percent

The first thing you notice about Fairmount is the trees—they’re everywhere. So it’s no surprise that the 25,000 people who call it home are city dwellers with a hankering (if only a small one) for the greenery of suburbia. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says realtor Elizabeth Clark. “You get a little more space, a few more trees and the cohesive feel of a neighborhood, while still having access to city life.”

Fairmount’s steady rise over the past decade has been more artful than dramatic, though home prices have risen significantly in the past 10 years. What has really changed is the people moving in, with an ever-younger demographic eschewing pre-fab modern (see: NoLibs) in favor of architectural charm. The result is a mecca for first-time homebuyers who want options: older single-family homes, new condos, fixer-uppers, move-in ready.

And while Fairmount is in the city, it’s not really of the city, with very real, very visual boundaries to the south (Ben Franklin Parkway) and west (Schuylkill River). So it’s become the natural planting ground for the growing number of university employees and Center City workers who want a place to play—that’d be along Fairmount Avenue, where the neighborhood’s critical mass of bars and restaurants is located—that isn’t where they work.

Fairmount: A Restaurant Revolution

A major restaurant renaissance has been officially under way here for the past year or so, with new eateries popping up with happy regularity. (Now if only a retail renaissance would follow, Fairmounters say wistfully.) Of particular note:

  • La Calaca Feliz, with its reimagined Mexican staples and a secret garden out back for quiet alfresco dining.
  • Hickory Lane, an upscale American bistro that steers clear of too much pretension for this down-to-earth ’hood.
  • Marc Vetri’s Alla Spina, an upscale beer spot with (surprise!) Italian leanings, on the easternmost edge of Fairmount.
  • Franklin Mortgage Jr.—okay, it’s actually called Lemon Hill—with craft cocktails of the egg-white-and-house-made-grenadine sort.
  • In keeping with the Fairmount Civic Association’s push for more sidewalk cafes, the new Fairmount Coffee Company, set to open any day now at 26th and Poplar.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see what’s going on with Northern Liberties.

Northern Liberties

Not just for artists anymore.

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Median home price: $329,750
Increase in median household income (1999 to 2011): 113.5 percent
Increase in residents aged 20 to 54 (2000 to 2010): 64.2 percent

You probably think you know who’s moving into NoLibs: funky, arty types with fixed-gear bikes and glasses cooler than yours, right? Wrong. That was the case a decade ago, but today the neighborhood long known for its gritty ethos and jam-packed restaurants is attracting a different crowd: suburban empty nesters and professional folks earning $100,000 and up.

It’s true that most newcomers don’t bother with the local elementary schools (part of the Philadelphia School District), instead going private or charter, but the most common complaint you hear? Parking. Otherwise, old-timers and newbies alike seem evangelical about their ’hood—even in the face of probable AVI tax hikes.

In fact, the place has become so desirable, says realtor Rich Fravel, that the market is extremely limited right now; homes being built are going under agreement in three months’ time. “Nothing is sitting,” he explains. “And good luck finding any single-family home below $350,000.” For that, you need to look north to Fishtown—but Fravel says the difference between NoLibs and Fishtown is increasingly negligible: “The line is becoming blurred, mostly due to a lack of inventory in Northern Liberties.”

Northern Liberties, My NoLibs:

Lara Kelly, 45, a coordinator with the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association, who lives with her partner and daughter.

“Northern Liberties is like a small town in the 1950s. People are accountable to their neighbors; they look out for each other, for each other’s kids. Whether or not we can stay remains to be seen, since our real estate taxes are tripling. One thing that has kept us here is that we could keep our quality of life and send our kid to a Quaker school. Once the taxes go up, we can’t afford that. It will be a sad day, because we never envisioned leaving this house.”

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.


Click here to see what’s going on in Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse

Limited space and émigrés from University City have created a boomlet in this classic ‘hood.

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Median home price: $429,000
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 11.7 percent
Residents with a B.A. or higher in 2011: 78.2 percent

Central location, restaurants, shopping galore, safe streets, beautiful bro­wnstones—it’s no huge shock that property values on these tree-lined city blocks have been up since 2009. More surprising is just how much change the tony zip code has seen in the past year. To wit: When Dranoff Properties took over the financially plagued luxury condo project 10 Rittenhouse in 2011, only 38 of the building’s 142 units (priced at an av­erage of $1.5 million) had been sold. Since then, Dranoff has done a whopping $138 million in sales—a v­eritable “stampede,” says Carl Dranoff. What’s more, the mad rush doesn’t stop at condos with a view of the Square: The total number of properties sold in the area shot up almost 12 percent last year alone, with most deals ending in “a competitive-bid situation,” says realtor and 30-year resident Ellen Steiner. And while limited inventory (read: not much more room to build) definitely fuels sales, Steiner credits two big-name neighbors as keys to Rittenhouse’s growth: Penn and Drexel. The u­niversities’ continued expansion efforts are quickly tying University City to the western parts of Rittenhouse Square—opening them up to hundreds of university and hospital employees eager for an address in the city’s most prestigious neighborhood.

Rittenhouse: A Glamorous City Experience:

  • Rittenhouse is a hit with … empty nesters, families, Penn docs, singles and couples … everyone who can afford it.
  • The food scene … rocks. Starr and Garces are both well represented, and locals are excited about the new Fitler Dining Room, from the folks behind Pub & Kitchen.
  • Shopping … is good, and improving. Walnut Street continues to lure big-name brands, and local boutiques like Knit Wit and Joan Shepp are planting themselves on Chestnut and Walnut.
  • Schools … Many parents opt for private or charter schools.
  • Residents’ pet peeves … Street parking, and incomprehensible amounts of dog poop on sidewalks.
  • Neighborhood gossip … These days, you can’t walk (or park) on Walnut Street without stumbling upon a row of movie trailers. In 2012, Dead Man Down (Colin Farrell!) and Paranoia (Harrison Ford!) filmed scenes here.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see the scoop about Lower North Philly.

Lower North Philly

Good things are on the horizon as development is closing the gap between Temple and City Hall.

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Median home price: $135,000
Increase in number of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 65.5 percent
Increase in median price of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 16.4 percent

It may seem a surprising area to pop up on a “hot neighborhoods” list, but this Temple-centric ’hood has seen houses selling almost twice as fast as they did just four years ago.

It’s still on the lower rungs of up-and-coming territory, with the lowest median home price by far of all of our hot spots. But that number (as well as the percentage of bachelors’ degrees among residents) is slowly on the rise, agrees Mickey Pascarella, longtime realtor with Keller Williams, as development moves south from Temple and north from City Hall, slowly filling in the space. When the university cranked up its enrollment recently, he says, the area was suddenly inundated with smaller developers buying up housing. In 2006, mega-mogul Bart Blatstein really started the commercial ball rolling with his 90,000-square-foot retail and commercial space, Avenue North, bringing new business and entertainment and shopping.

The livability factor has bumped up significantly, and doesn’t show a whole lot of signs of stopping. Take, for instance, the ballyhooed Paseo Verde, a $48 million super-green mixed-use, mixed-income development, which debuts this spring at 9th and Berks streets.

Lower North Philly: A 20-Something City Destination:

  • Lower North Philly is a hit with … Temple undergrads and grad students; 20-somethings.
  • The food scene … is affordable. Think campus staples like Subway mixed with locally owned, accessible eats—the Creperie, killer Mexican food at Taco Riendo and Que Chula es Puebla.
  • Shopping … is sparse, but residents are in close proximity to major retailers in Center City.
  • Schools … Public schools fall in the Philadelphia School District—but within the zip code there are six privates and three charters, including Wakisha Charter School, YouthBuild and Young Scholars.
  • The most prevalent crime is … Robbery and theft. One perk: Temple pays the Philadelphia Police Department to increase patrols in areas with crime patterns.
  • Biggest selling points … Major renovations in the area and university expansion, all tidying up the outskirts.
  • Residents describe the area using words like … “spotty” and “developing” and “young.”
  • Neighborhood gossip … Bart Blatstein’s next big (probable) venture is the $700 million casino-shopping complex just a little south of the ’hood on North Broad, which supporters think will boost foot traffic and jobs in the area.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

Click here to see our thoughts about Washington West.

Washington Square West

The evolution of the Gayborhood put this ‘hood in high demand.

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Median home price: $299,000
Increase in median price of properties sold (2011 to 2012): 10.7 percent
Increase in residents aged 20 to 54 (2000 to 2010): 15.7 percent

Ten years ago, this neighborhood wouldn’t have made the list. Once the dirtiest stretch in Center City—literally and figuratively—the 13th Street corridor is now Philadelphia’s fine-dining epicenter, boasting can’t-get-a-reservation joints like Barbuzzo and Vetri’s popular 2010 trattoria, Amis. Remember Signatures, the strip club on Locust? Today that’s NEST, a three-story “children’s enrichment center.”

Likewise, “the Gayborhood” has become something of a misnomer. Yes, street signs in the area—a big part of Washington Square West—are splashed with little rainbow banners; gay bar Woody’s is still a stalwart, and several business owners are gay. But as new business attracted new residents—from Jefferson doctors to Rittenhouse émigrés seeking more space—this became much more than “the gay neighborhood.” With increased yuppification (and commerce!) has come increasingly valuable real estate.

Good luck finding a medium-sized condo in one of Wash West’s low-rise apartment buildings (where available property is most prevalent) for under $400,000. (Those seeking cheaper confines are heading a few blocks north to Chinatown’s loft district, where art galleries and roomy condos are giving Old City a run for its money.) But while much of the area’s younger, bohemian crowd has settled there or in South Philly, Wash West remains a good deal funkier than stately Society Hill to its east.

Despite the stroller boom and the excellent George McCall K-8 public school that’s facilitated it, a whiff of Wash West’s bad old days can linger late at night. “It’s not that [the seediness] ever goes away,” observes former Washington Square West Civic Association president Judy Applebaum. “It just changes locations” within the neighborhood. But that’s a mark of character, right?

Wash West: The Beloved Gayborhood

  • Wash West is a hit with …everyone from ambitious young professionals to youngish families to hippyish old-timers who got in during the bad old days.
  • The food scene … is easily the best in the city: Jamonera, Vedge, Capogiro, Barbuzzo, El Vez … the list goes on.
  • Shopping … is perfect for weekend boutique-hopping. Wash West has a virtual monopoly on Center City’s quaint side streets and cozy coffee shops.
  • The most prevalent crime is … Transvestite prostitutes regularly hold court at 12th and Lombard after the bars close on weekends, and the dealers sling product at 13th and Locust with impunity.
  • Schools … In addition to its good test scores (especially in math), McCall, part of the Philadelphia School District, is both economically and racially diverse, reflecting the breadth of the school’s catchment, which encompasses all of Center City east of Broad Street. Parents from outside the district clamor to transfer their kids into the school.
  • Neighborhood gossip … Though available restaurant space is growing scarce, there’s the much-anticipated American brasserie Pennsylvania 6—from the same folks who own City Tap House in West Philly—who managed to squeeze in at 12th and Sansom.

Data derived from HomExpert Market Report, a product of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Research Division.

  • Oleg B.

    What about University City??

  • Garden Logan

    why lump kensington and fishtown together? apples to oranges.

  • jockman

    We used to have 3 hardware stores, but due to those who have gentrified my hood the property values caused them to close up and sell…

    • Ashley H.

      you are so angry

  • jockman

    When will the hipsters realize human beings need more retail options than coffee shops?

  • jockman

    Port Richmond is the new destination…Fishtown is over

    • hank

      calm down

      • jockman

        The voice of a renter

  • Vald Bagina

    from my own personal experience, it’s usually the same temperature all over the city.