Report: “Anarchists” Vandalize Cars, Apartments in South Kensington

About 30 people vandalized a number of luxury cars and newly-constructed apartment buildings in South Kensington last night, according to NBC10.

Police reportedly described the vandals as “anarchists.” About 20 cars and several buildings were damaged near the intersection of 2nd and Jefferson streets.

Windows were smashed and paint was splattered across the outside of apartments. A banner discovered at the scene of the incident read “Gentrification is death, Revolt is Life.”  Read more »

The Changing Streets of Cedar Park

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Photo courtesy of JJ Tiziou | www.jjtiziou.net

Monica Allison moved to West Philadelphia’s Cedar Park in 1997, buying a gorgeous red brick Victorian town house for $67,000. She’d been renting closer to the University of Pennsylvania, but her neighbors repeatedly called the police on her teenage son when he was home alone, just hanging out around the house. Allison, who is African-American, had to rush home from her job as an insurance underwriter time and again to find him handcuffed on the couch.

Even today, as the country’s increasing diversity makes racial isolation less common, Cedar Park is a rarity because of its longstanding mixture of black and white households. When Allison moved there, it had been roughly evenly comprised of black and white households since at least 1970, although the white population continued to slowly decline. That remained true even as the neighborhoods to the west, north and south of Cedar Park became more than 95 percent black. But by the end of the 1990s, Cedar Park’s white population plummeted to 27.9 percent as crime spiked and several high-profile murders racked the neighborhood. Read more »

Affordable Apartments Getting Scarcer in Philly, Fed Says

Gentrifcation in a number of neighborhoods has brought with it a loss of affordable rental units, a new Philly Fed study finds. | iStock photo

Gentrifcation in a number of neighborhoods has brought with it a loss of affordable rental units, a new Philly Fed study finds. | iStock photo

Studies conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia have shown that gentrification produces benefits for those lower-income residents who do manage to remain in gentrified neighborhoods. And the city’s relatively low housing costs by East Coast standards have made it possible for many lower-income residents to stick around after their neighborhoods got an upgrade.

According to a study just released by the Philly Fed, lower-income renters may not find it as easy to stick around when their neighborhoods gentrify anymore. Read more »

Only a Fraction of Philly Neighborhoods Have Gentrified, Pew Says

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Cedar Park is one of the neighborhoods that has gentrified between 2000 and 2014, according to Pew.

Just 15 census tracts in Philadelphia experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2014, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. That’s only 4 percent of the 372 total tracts in the city. Meanwhile, 10 times that amount saw a major decrease in median income.

But those figures probably don’t mean much to the former residents of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood in Southwest Center City. During that time period, more than 4,000 black residents left the neighborhood while the white population more than tripled, according to the report. (Full disclosure: I helped write a Pew report on Councilmanic prerogative last year on a freelance basis.) Read more »

ThinkFest Recap: The Gentrification Train “Has Not Left Station” — Yet

From left: Inga Saffron, Jay McCalla, Beth McConnell and Calvin Gladney on "The Gentrification Wars: Can Philly Have Urbanism and Equality" at ThinkFest.

From left: Inga Saffron, Jay McCalla, Beth McConnell and Calvin Gladney on “The Gentrification Wars: Can Philly Have Urbanism and Equality” at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Inga Saffron has written about the city’s changing skyline for 16 years. Today, she says, “you cannot write about the changing city of Philadelphia, without writing about gentrification.”

Saffron Friday moderated a ThinkFest panel centered on a question that is being asked with greater and greater urgency as Philadelphia’s redevelopment accelerates: “Can Philly have urbanism and equity?”

Joining Saffron were Jay McCalla, a former city official and Citified columnist; Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; and Calvin Gladney, managing partner at Mosaic Urban Partners.

They disagreed on plenty, but there seemed to be consensus that it was still possible for Philadelphia to have urbanist amenities and equitable neighborhoods.

Near the end of the discussion, McConnell said: “the train has not left the station yet in Philadelphia.” She cited the gentrification battleground of Point Breeze, and said there was still enough vacant property and tax delinquent parcels in the neighborhood to build a solid supply of affordable housing. The city has a chance, she said, to “create mixed income neighborhoods of opportunity — and I really hope the next mayor makes that a priority.”

Read more »

The Death of Gentrification Guilt

Le Bok Fin

Opening night patrons at Le Bok Fin. | Photo credit: Michelle Gustafson

A few months ago, developer Lindsey Scannapieco paid $1.75 million for a 340,000-square-foot property in South Philadelphia right around the corner from my apartment. For 75 years, the building had been the Edward W. Bok Technical High School, until officials closed it and 23 other public schools in 2013 amid major financial cutbacks. Scannapieco and her team immediately got to work transforming the rooftop of the eight-story building into a pop-up French restaurant. They installed a kitchen and two open-air bars. They drew up a menu: $6 “Paris” hot dogs, $8 baguettes, $12 charcuterie plates. Where the school’s flag once flew, they raised their own. And exactly one month later, Le Bok Fin was open. Read more »

Dear Le Bok Fin Haters: Quit Your Whining

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

Did you hear about the latest scourge of Philadelphia? No, it’s not the violence in the streets or the corruption and incompetence in public office or even the PPA parking nazis. It is [cue sinister music] … Le Bok Fin. Read more »

Philly’s Hottest New Bar Becomes Gentrification Battleground

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

For weeks, there has been a fierce debate on social media about Le Bok Fin. It’s a pop-up restaurant that serves French cuisine, offers a stunning, panoramic view of Philadelphia, and has been called “the hottest bar” in the city. What’s so controversial about that? Well, it’s on the rooftop of what was once Bok Technical High School, a vocational school that was closed in 2013 amid major financial cutbacks.

On one side of the debate are people who argue that the project is tone-deaf, that the school never should have closed, and that it should be repurposed with long-term residents — not craft beer-drinking hipsters — in mind. On the other side are those who say that the revitalization of a blighted building is something to be celebrated, and that the larger issues of poverty, affordable housing and education funding should be addressed by the public sector, not individual developers.

And somewhere in between are people who acknowledge that Le Bok Fin is a good thing, but call for empathy for residents who bristle at seeing scads of young white people eating croissants and $6 “Paris” hot dogs in the same place where children of color learned trades just two years ago.

Much of the discussion about Le Bok Fin, though, has taken place in private Facebook groups. On Thursday, critics of the pop-up restaurant took it much more public when they launched a guerrilla campaign on Yelp, posting highly critical comments about Le Bok Fin right alongside five-star reviews posted by fans. Taken together, they mirror the ever-escalating debate over gentrification that is happening all over the city. Read more »

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