From River To River, Philadelphia's Neighborhoods Are Flourishing North Of Center City
A series of massive developments in University City has drawn Philadelphia’s center of gravity west, as far as large-scale business is concerned. But there’s a different sort of movement happening north of Center City, not west: The neighborhoods are growing. The growth is not all at the same rates, and not all in the same stages, but there’s no mistaking that from the Schuylkill to the Delaware, neighborhoods are growing in both density and variety.
It may not be as far along as fellow buzzy neighborhood Fishtown, but Brewerytown is a popular pick for the neighborhood most on the rise within city limits.
Girard Avenue runs through it as a thoroughfare for business-frequenting pedestrians and commuters using the I-76 exit alike, and restaurants are taking notice. National retailers may not be in the cards, but new mixed-use buildings are being developed out of historic warehouses and production buildings like the A.F. Bornot Dye Works, the sort of renovations that need to be happening all over the city in order for there to be new multifamily product below Class-A.
The property values and rent prices are already approaching some areas of Center City, but Fairmount isn’t done growing. The Dalian on the Park apartment building recently opened (and been put up for sale, citing the increase in property value) with a shiny new Whole Foods as its anchor retail tenant, and the Fairmount Avenue CDC is investing in a new swath of public improvements to beef up the eponymous street as a pedestrian corridor.
With the picturesque swath of the Ben Franklin Parkway, the neighborhood already boasts the most large-scale gatherings in the city — maybe not the most fun for commuters, but always good for restaurants and retail.
Spring Hill's one of the neighborhoods that’s adding density the fastest, and it’s because of both office and multifamily projects coming in. Spring Garden may not come up on many people’s lists for the hippest neighborhoods in town, but it’s every bit as convenient in its proximity to Center City (and the Broad Street Line) as the other areas mentioned here, and developers are taking advantage.
With all the projects in the near-term pipeline, the area will have seen nearly 3,000 new units since 2010, and it’s getting serious office square footage for the first time since the '70s.
Sure, most of Callowhill is zoned and used for industrial purposes, but there’s still activity beginning to add diversity and vibrancy to the area. Twin residential buildings are going up at Callowhill and 4th St, two more at Callowhill and Broad, and the first phase of Philadelphia’s large rail park has just broken ground in the area. Perhaps the neighborhood most Millennials would only visit to see concerts will make a few of them stick around in the years to come.
One major development is coming to Chinatown in the next few years that could change the very shape of the neighborhood over time: Eastern Tower.
The project will attempt to bridge the gap naturally created by the Vine Street Expressway to expand the commercial heart of the neighborhood with apartments and a community center. Meanwhile, the East Market development being built on the other side of the Convention Center from Chinatown could easily have a ripple effect on property values nearby.
The Piazza complex, the largest mixed-use development in the neighborhood, has been rebranded as Schmidt’s Commons and infused with new life thanks to the arrival of a WeWork (and the pending arrival of a pizzeria/brewpub). Right across the street, a new mixed-use building with an unannounced ground-floor retail tenant that “will be fantastic for residents and the community,” according to HOW Properties, is under construction.
Otherwise, the area affectionately known as NoLibs has achieved impressive density without building anything taller than the Piazza. Next up for the area is a demolition of an industrial space on 3rd Street, to be turned into a five-story mixed-use apartment building.
Fishtown is absolutely one of the hottest neighborhoods to which Millennials are moving in the city right now, and it continues to grow to fit that label. The large-scale entertainment complex anchored by the Fillmore has welcomed a comedy club, a bowling alley and multiple restaurants, and more businesses are on the way.
The Fillmore just adds to the restaurant density that’s been achieved on Frankford Avenue, or the larger mixed-use buildings filling in gaps along Girard. In the narrow side streets that largely define the neighborhood, not too much can be added, but developers are finding new avenues, like on North Delaware Avenue, where a new apartment building will be joined by a rock climbing gym.
Kensington may not have quite the citywide profile that Fishtown does, but it’s using its relative lack of single-family housing to great effect, with numerous mixed-use projects in the pipeline larger than anything Fishtown has going.
Unsurprisingly, much of the activity is in properties that used to be old factories, but there’s also a brand-new residential over retail building going up on Frankford Avenue. With the Market-Frankford Line running through the neighborhood, there’s no reason Kensington can’t become yet another destination neighborhood for renters looking to move where the buzz will be next.