What The Hell Happened To Old City?

Just a decade ago, it was the city’s rising, glamorous neighborhood, a maze of cobblestone streets, galleries, boutiques and lounges. Now, weekend after weekend, it’s a whole different story

“It’s like a frat house,” Anne says. “Is it always like this?”

Outside, two cops watch the door to Grey Lounge closely for any hint of retaliation. Cruisers with lights flashing have taken their usual positions on 2nd Street at both Market and Chestnut to control traffic. As car horns honk, young guys make their last desperate passes at women stumbling by. A slab of tanned beefcake is urinating on a nearby wall, a few feet from the front door of the Old City District’s offices.

Meanwhile, Old City North is quiet. An $80 million hotel and retail project at 4th and Race is in the works. To the west sits Independence Mall, its majesty untainted by the hordes in spandex and Affliction t-shirts here, just a few blocks away. The new Jewish History Museum is set to open this fall. Perhaps there is reason for some optimism in these three square blocks, too: Ristorante Panorama’s Luca Sena is giving the old Snow White Diner at 2nd and Market a seven-figure transformation into Revolution House, an Italian eatery. Maybe it will give people a reason to be a little more like Anne — wide-eyed and eager, hoping to see a better Old City.

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