Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

How six big shifts in population and wealth are going to change your life. Plus: Our local real estate price report, with predictions for 40 places whose names will go up in lights

INSIDE THE ROCKET Cat Cafe, Holly Sue Allen, the sinewy counter girl, is deftly whipping up lattes and flavored teas for a quixotic assortment of capri-wearing blondes, local contractors, housepainters, and scruffy-looking white boys in thrift-store bomber jackets. Catherine Feeny drifts from the stereo; in the back, a skeleton in Ray-Bans and a Santa hat jauntily welcomes patrons, his bones rising out of a cardboard diorama of a row of burning skyscrapers.

It’s the kind of cozy gathering place you’d expect to find in Old City or Fairmount. But the Rocket Cat sits squarely on the glamorous corner that is Frankford Avenue and Norris Street, across from Dan’s Fresh Meats, smack in the belly of Fishtown.

Fishtown? Really?

Really. Now imagine that 10 years ago you were a friend of the Rocket Cat’s groovy owners, Karen Breese and her husband, Thom Roach. What would you have told them back in 1997 when they came to you, all excited and wide-eyed, and said, “We’re moving to the up-and-coming part of the city: Fishtown!”

Yeah. Us too. And the Greek chorus grew even louder three years ago, when the couple decided to turn a corner building they owned into the Rocket Cat “basically because I wanted coffee,” Breese says. But today their little slice of bohemian chic is the bellwether of an urban renaissance. Johnny Brenda’s, owned by the same guys who made Standard Tap the toast of Northern Liberties, is nearby; not even a mile away, Ryan Homes has sold out Dickens Square, its development of new townhomes priced at over $300,000.

“Regardless of what people said, we didn’t care,” Breese says. “We knew our friends were moving there. We knew what was happening.”

Ah, to be one of those fortunate people who know what’s happening before it happens. We hear the reports all the time: Northern Liberties is the next big thing! Trenton is the next big thing! The Northeast is the next big thing!

Okay, so maybe not the Northeast. But what if you could peer into the future and divine where the cool places will be in 10 years? Are you better off moving to the city to raise your family — or relocating to a new suburban development that’s built for walking? Could favorable laws draw you out of the Gayborhood and into a fabulous New New Jersey? And, most important, how long ­before Fishtown gets a Starbucks? (Three years. You heard it here first.)

Don’t you wish you could know? Luckily, you can — because we’ve done all the groundwork for you, and we’re ready to make some bold predictions about what life in Philly and its environs will look like within the next decade. Come take a peek.