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Thread: Re-converting single-family houses in West Philadelphia

  1. #1
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Re-converting single-family houses in West Philadelphia

    House conversions affecting student renters

    This is an interesting article about the re-conversion of single-family houses from multi-unit to single-family in the Univeristy City neighborhood of Philadelphia (around the University of Pennsylvania).

    I think it is a good sign for a perviously "rough" area of West Philadelphia.

    Though beware: This is certainly a classic example of 'gentrification", but it is mainly affecting UPenn students, so is it still "bad"?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    The housing stock in University City is almost exhaustive. It'll be quite a long time before the majority of houses become single family residences, and much of the price increase isn't so much from the loss of housing to conversion to single family, but from the increasing desirability of the neighborhood to renters other than Penn students.

    Still, much of the housing stock is impressive, rows of late Victorian Queen Anne townhouses of superb quality, and conversion to single family encourages greater stability and preservation of the houses.


    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    House conversions affecting student renters

    This is an interesting article about the re-conversion of single-family houses from multi-unit to single-family in the Univeristy City neighborhood of Philadelphia (around the University of Pennsylvania).

    I think it is a good sign for a perviously "rough" area of West Philadelphia.

    Though beware: This is certainly a classic example of 'gentrification", but it is mainly affecting UPenn students, so is it still "bad"?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    It can only be a good thing. Reverting to original use, probably restoration, etc.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  4. #4
         
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    I'm am not familar with this neighborhood but the picture in the article show some buildings with "great bones". This may be this neighborhood's last chance. Lack of investment and maintenence in student rental ghettos often leads to having to demolish run down buildings and then replace them with ugly multi-family cube buildings. Just look around about any university's adjacent residential neighborhood for examples. Reinvestment and conversion to single-family use can only help in the long run to create a viable neighborhood. Universities also need to provide more quality on-campus housing so these residential neighborhoods are not raped by investors trying to get as much return on property as possible. Cities are also to blame for rezoning large areas for multi-family uses around these schools.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Those houses look eerily similar to my house.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star
    Those houses look eerily similar to my house.
    Well.....Balti and Philly aren't that far apart, so it shouldn't be too surprising.

    Wait.....you're one of those "evil" gentrifiers, aren't you?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Penn's Dilemma

    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    House conversions affecting student renters

    This is an interesting article about the re-conversion of single-family houses from multi-unit to single-family in the Univeristy City neighborhood of Philadelphia (around the University of Pennsylvania).

    I think it is a good sign for a perviously "rough" area of West Philadelphia.

    Though beware: This is certainly a classic example of 'gentrification", but it is mainly affecting UPenn students, so is it still "bad"?
    This situation puts Penn in an interesting conundrum. Much of the renewed attractiveness of the area is the direct result of the massive amount of work and development the university has done to "improve" the area. Faced with a decline in applications and a reputation as the "black sheep" of the Ive League, Penn began over a decade ago to remake a good deal of University City. The results have been positive in terms of the area having more owners and less renters (and therefore more community investment in upkeep) but, in my opinion, the university has insulated itself even more from the surrounding areas, become more sterile, and displaced a good deal of what were perceived of as "undesireables" in the area.

    I was living in the area and attending Penn at the time much of this began and was disappointed about things like kicking out the food truck vendors in the Walnut Street area. University planners thought they were too "dirty" (was it the trucks or the immigrants?...)

    Its a mixed bag. The last time I visited, I was pleased to see alot of families out on the street, cafes and outdoor venues bustling, and many nicely restored homes. On the other hand, go west beyond 45th street and situation seems even worse than when I lived there. Abandoned buildings, decaying infrastructure, etc.

    I seriously doubt that student housing could really be threatened given the many areas to rent (Powelton Village still has many rentals, I believe), but perhaps Penn needs to take the lead in ensuring rents are kept reasonable since it is their efforts that have made it once again a "desireable" location.

    Wade

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    There are still plenty of food vendors, not so much on Walnut (except off Walnut and 34th by the School of Design building), but 38th, Spruce and 40th all are lined with food trucks. It is the one aspect of Penn that I miss.

    I don't know how long ago it was when you were at Penn, but the gentrification has spread west of 45th. Most people now talk of 49th as the dividing line. Of course, north of Walnut west of 42nd is a different story.

    I agree with you that gentrification can lead to a sterile atmosphere, but the crime problem ten years ago was bad, not just for Penn students, but for long term neighborhood residents as well. Old women were being raped, people being shot~these weren't your typical random robbery. I'd far rather take what we have now over what was there before "McPenntrification."

    And of course, there is the whole theoretical debate over who "owns" the neighborhood. West Philadelphia at one time was an upscale suburb of center city before it changed and became a working class black community. I'm sure that many of the long time white residents from the older days resented the change of their neighborhood to a less affluent, less desirable place. But, well, nothing is permanent, and given that Philadelphia already has so many other distressed neighborhoods, the city should take what Penn can do in West Philadelphia.



    Quote Originally posted by wahday
    This situation puts Penn in an interesting conundrum. Much of the renewed attractiveness of the area is the direct result of the massive amount of work and development the university has done to "improve" the area. Faced with a decline in applications and a reputation as the "black sheep" of the Ive League, Penn began over a decade ago to remake a good deal of University City. The results have been positive in terms of the area having more owners and less renters (and therefore more community investment in upkeep) but, in my opinion, the university has insulated itself even more from the surrounding areas, become more sterile, and displaced a good deal of what were perceived of as "undesireables" in the area.

    I was living in the area and attending Penn at the time much of this began and was disappointed about things like kicking out the food truck vendors in the Walnut Street area. University planners thought they were too "dirty" (was it the trucks or the immigrants?...)

    Its a mixed bag. The last time I visited, I was pleased to see alot of families out on the street, cafes and outdoor venues bustling, and many nicely restored homes. On the other hand, go west beyond 45th street and situation seems even worse than when I lived there. Abandoned buildings, decaying infrastructure, etc.

    I seriously doubt that student housing could really be threatened given the many areas to rent (Powelton Village still has many rentals, I believe), but perhaps Penn needs to take the lead in ensuring rents are kept reasonable since it is their efforts that have made it once again a "desireable" location.

    Wade

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    God, it always amazes how English parts of Philly look...even though I lived there for 1.5 years.

  10. #10
    I don't really buy the idea that reconverting rowhouses to single family use will significantly reduce the stock of housing to students. It just means they'll have to walk a couple blocks further. There are still, as wahday mentions, blocks and blocks of abandoned buildings in West Philly. If anything the stock exceeds the demand. It's the social conditions that prevent its reutilization. Let the students go west of 49th.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian IlliniPlanner's avatar
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    We have a "Neighborhood Stabilization" program where we offer $10,000 for every unit deconverted. It has been very successful and the end result on the neighborhoods has been quite visible, particularly with all the parking problems and discovering back yards that have been paved over.
    One lot of redevelopment prevents a block of sprawl.

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