Building It Better Together: Gentrification extends beyond Philadelphia

BySarah Bloomquist and Ana Luna WPVI logo
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Gentrification extends beyond the Philadelphia
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Gentrification is often thought of as an urban issue, but we found changes in the suburbs.

ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Gentrification extends beyond Philadelphia.

The western suburbs are changing, too. Buildings are going up and so are housing prices.

More than a decade ago, Ardmore needed change. Downtown Ardmore was stagnant and people weren't moving to this part of the Main Line, so officials took matters into their own hands.

"We amended our code for some redevelopment in Ardmore, and we've seen that redevelopment more recently with the economy getting better," says Assistant Manager Bob Duncan.

Luxury condos, like One Ardmore Place, went up, and similar projects both big and small are in progress or planned.

RELATED: Philadelphia's gentrification: Some call it revitalization. Others call it an erosion of cultural history

However, the growth has meant growing pains: traffic, stress on the school district, parking problems.

Reverend Virginia Pollard sees another change: "The color of the community is changing."

Pollard has called Ardmore and Mt. Zion Baptist Church, her spiritual home for decades.

She says many African Americans of her generation worked in Main Line homes but now many of these families say they can no longer afford to live in that area.

"Our kids have good jobs. They've gone to college and they cannot afford to buy a home here," she says.

Phoenixville is another city in the suburbs that's also seeing a building boom.

Once a depressed steel town, it is now home to new luxury housing, brewpubs and coffee shops like the one where we sat down with Mayor Pete Urscheler.

RELATED: Building it Better Together: Changing neighborhoods and the impact of gentrification

"If you haven't been here in 5 years or you haven't been here... especially if you haven't been here in 10 years, you will be blown away by the significant revitalization that the Phoenixville community has undergone," says Urscheler.

Big new housing projects are going up here, too, so is the price of housing. So much so that residents, like Beth Ann Ceschan, say they can no longer afford to live in Phoenixville.

Non-profits like Orion Communities, are taking action to help residents and help people like Beth Ann find housing and other services.

"The reality is it's a national crisis. Affordable housing is a really big deal everywhere and when you get a town like Phoenixville that was a working-class town, that's now become this hot commodity and so many other people want to move in, the rents are going up and we don't have affordable housing like we used to have," says Kris Keller, the executive director of that non-profit.