Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 07, 2020

WPVI-TV Philadelphia series on gentrification "Building it Better Together"

Updated: with links to the final two stories in this week's series

The tv station is running four stories this week about change in Philadelphia primarily, but also its suburbs. 

The series is called "Building it Better Together: Changing Neighborhoods and the Impact of Gentrification."

The first discusses how change is focused on specific neighborhoods.  While in some neighborhoods housing prices have more than doubled, the average price increase in Philadelphia is 9%.  The webpage includes an interactive map showing price increases for every neighborhood in the city.

The piece mentions an advocacy group, the People's Emergency Center, which tracks changes in particular neighborhoods, and has a wide range of neighborhood-focused services, including emergency shelter, and a developer, Ori Feibush, of OCF Realty, who is building apartment buildings across Philadelphia--the one featured in the story actually looked quite good, but a perusal of their website shows many buildings that are modern renditions of rowhouses, which tend to clash significantly with buildings constructed before 1930.

The second story focuses on infill development, and how it is so significantly different in terms of design, and also about how changing neighborhood demographics changes neighborhoods.

It happens there is a thread about the quality of design and whether or not buildings that fit would assuage opposition.  (I happen to think not.  But it would be a lot better regardless.)

WRT design, it's another illustration of the need for design guidelines.  They aren't design guidelines, but many years ago the Philadelphia planning office produced a nice guide on the rowhouse type, the Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual.

Interestingly, the very first entry in this blog is a reprint of an op-ed I got published in the Philadelphia Daily News in 2003, on preservation-based revitalization, which I wrote after attending a conference there.

The third story looks at inward investment in two suburban communities, Ardmore--in Lower Merion Township, which is across the river from the Manayunk neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Phoenixville.

The fourth story features initiatives designed to help lower income households. 

Aaron Clark is a developer, principal of Philly Credit Mechanic.  The firm "flips" and improves properties, but it works with tenants with Section 8 vouchers to improve their credit worthiness and saves some of their monthly rent in an account that they can use to buy a house in the future. 

The Community Justice Land Trust owns and develops property, keeping the land element of development (land + building) permanently affordable.

Congressman Brendan Boyle proposes federal support for lower cost mortgages aimed to renters, to be able to buy in neighborhoods where they've been living, or subsidizing the payment of rent increases.

The story also interviews a spokeswoman from the Women's Community Revitalization Project.

The story says that investment is good, but that negative effects can and should be mitigated so that all people, regardless of income, can benefit.

The story presenter claims they have resources on their website on the topic, but they don't really have much that is useful.

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