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

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A hallmark of gentrification in Philadelphia are modest, older homes in the shadow of often modern condo complexes. For some, it's considered revitalization. For others, it's the erosion of rich cultural history.

Constant construction noise is something most residents in parts of Philadelphia have grown used to hearing.

The sawing, drilling, and pounding are all sounds of a flourishing neighborhood drawing newcomers looking for a taste of the revitalized urban life.

"We're a bike shop. So we have a lot of people that bike and don't have cars, which is great," said Shelly Solomon Walker, owner and manager of Fairmount Bicycles.

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

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From Philadelphia to the surrounding suburbs, development and redevelopment are bringing with them wholesale change.



Over the last decade, some Philadelphia neighborhoods have experienced some of the most acute gentrification the city and country have seen. For some business owners, it's practically the land of opportunity, as more white-collar residents, often homeowners with more disposable income, move into the neighborhood.

"Over the course of the years, like we've added more and more flowers, people care about the way the outside of their house looks like. It just seems like people are taking a lot of pride in the community right now," said Andrew Siegel of Fairmount Hardware.

Indeed it is a neighborhood filled with opportunity but its longtime residents will argue it is essentially an entirely new neighborhood in itself.

"It's not family anymore," said Pearl Bailey-Anderson of La Pearl Beauty Salon. "They're putting these ugly buildings up that match nothing in our neighborhood that right there breaks my heart."

The pattern is well documented. Longtime, often lower-income and minority residents, are forced out as rent prices and property taxes skyrocket, low-income housing vanishes.

"Some of the areas north of here in the Mantua section and the Powelton section, I've seen a lot of people be displaced and it's really sad to see, but it affects a lot of the kids that I work with in our youth program," said Alexander Harris of Philadelphia's Powelton section.

The character and ethnic makeup of the neighborhood is drastically shifted and the remaining residents who can afford to stay, ultimately choose to leave their now unrecognizable environment. Phyllis Jones Carter owns a business in West Philadelphia and is a longtime homeowner in what is now called Lower Lancaster.

"The neighbors aren't the same neighbors anymore. Nobody speaks. They just come out of the house get in their cars and drive away," she said.

Sure there are the lucky few who said they have the option of swallowing their pride and taking the cash.

"We paid $10,000 honest to God. I get offers now from $400,000-$600,000 for my house," said Jones Carter.

"We get that every week, several times a week form realtors saying they want to buy our properties where are you going to send us? I don't want to go to the suburbs," said Bailey-Anderson.

But it's not as simple as moving to the suburbs. In our next installment of Building It Better Together, a surprising section of the Delaware Valley that's also experiencing these growing pains and what are officials are doing to manage.

Philadelphia Resource: Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP)

The Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) is a Real Estate Tax relief program for eligible homeowners whose property assessments (after the Homestead Exemption) increased by 50%, or more, from last year. Participants must also fall within income limits, and meet length of home ownership requirements.

Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP)
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