Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Oval" is just one small example of how Philadelphia is embracing its public spaces

As stated by Harris Steinberg in this article, Philadelphia has a sense of "renewed urbanity." That's a great way of putting it, but it requires more reading to fully understand it.

The Oval is a great example of Philadelphia's new found embrace of its public spaces, but it's definitely not the only one. Sister Cities Park and the Race Street Pier are other relevant examples or reusing what we have.

In the last 10 years or so, Center City has truly taken off. Not only from a real estate agent's perspective, but from a resident's perspective as well.

Back during my undergrad days at La Salle University (that's right, the recent NCAA "Sweet 16 Cinderella"), from 1997-2001, Center City was almost an afterthought for people my age. Unless you went to Penn or Drexel, you really didn't venture down there that often; unless there was a specific reason to (e.g. museums, famous sandwiches, etc.). In other words, people in their late-teens/early-twenties were more focused on Manayunk. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely a lot of development going on in Center City during the last boom, but it was different than it is today.

It's interesting how things change so fast. That was only 15 years ago.

Now, Center City is booming. So much so that it has inspired University City to get up and form solid working relationships with their local universities and hospitals, while also breaking borders with their own neighborhoods in/around Center City. These days, when people refer to Center City, they are thinking beyond 19103, 19102, 19107, and 19106. They are talking about Fairmount, Graduate Hospital, Bella Vista, among others.

That is what has been happening since my undergrad days.

Center City is no longer a place to either work or party, it has become a way of life; a true urban lifestyle. Whether you go to school, go to work, or raise a family, there are almost too many things to do on a daily basis. Bike lanes have started to slow down cars, new parks (as well as skate parks, pop-up gardens, and parklets) host weekly events, and the Ben Franklin Parkway is now pedestrian friendly.


Who would have thought this was all possible in 15 years, and today it's moving faster than it ever has. Which means there is a lot more to come, especially on the back of a new real estate boom.

Manayunk is still an awesome place to be (as I live in the area, and know it well), but even that has changed. When I frequented Main Street in 2000, almost every bar catered to a college crowd. Now we have Han Dynasty, Cooper's, and the highly-anticipated spots Rubb and Taqueria Feliz. On top of all that, a new state-of-the-art charter school is being built just off of Ridge Ave in Roxborough.

Things are changing for the better.

Why am I even talking about all of this, and what does it mean? It means that living within Philadelphia's city limits has gone beyond its gimmicky reasons for visiting and/or hanging out just 15 years ago.

It means that being a Philadelphian today (whether you are a student, young professional, family, or empty nester), makes you a part of something special.

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