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What is Philadelphia's trajectory in 2007?
March 5, 2007 1:54 PM   Subscribe

What is Philadelphia's trajectory in 2007? Seven cities are compared: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
posted by jacobw (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great link. Thanks.
posted by huskerdont at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2007


Very interesting stuff. Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:39 PM on March 5, 2007


Hey, things're looking good there in Detroit:

Large swaths of the city’s land mass are
ruined, forbidding, chaotic places to live or work
in, with at least 60,000 abandoned buildings
stripped of anything usable or sellable. The city
is losing 1,000 people a month, many of them
middle-income African Americans fleeing
increasing crime and horrendous schools (only 8
percent of the population is white)... Functional illiteracy among adults has been estimated
at 47 percent. It is, a demographer said,
“a vast, undereducated, untrained, unskilled,
poor population with 70 percent of kids born out
of wedlock.” Not surprisingly, the city has a
structural deficit of $200 million per year, its
bond ratings are falling, and most observers
expect a default in two to four years.

posted by Faze at 2:48 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll print this out when I get to work tomorrow and pass it around the office.
posted by The Straightener at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2007




Philadelphia needs a stronger identity. It's a wonderful city, and I would probably never know that if I hadn't had the good fortune to marry a woman from the Philly suburbs.

Everyone has notions of what New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, San Fransisco and Los Angeles are about, but Philadelphia is just "Generic East Coast Metropolis" to a lot of people. It sells its history, but I don't think it does it as well as Boston. It promotes itself a cultural center, but it can't do it as well as New York.

It's such a great place, and it needs to find a way to get known beyond being a place for cheesesteaksand the home of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE, Ira Einhorn and the Liberty Bell.

Philadelphians have about the greatest sense of civic pride I've encountered and rightly so. I stayed in the city center to see the Red Sox play the Phillies last summer, and all the New Englanders I talked to were gushing about what a great place Philadelphia is. And I know it has some big problems with safety and stuff like that, but it has so much to offer.

Oh, and Philadelphia Mefites, Reading Terminal Market is one of the most fantastic places I've ever seen in any city. Don't take that for granted!
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:58 PM on March 5, 2007


Wasn't there an article in Detroit's Metro Times a couple of years ago suggesting that much of the city be razed and turned into farmland???
posted by foodeater at 3:11 PM on March 5, 2007


Look, we all love Philly and everything, but why should I wade through this rather lengthy academic tract?

Not being snarky or anything, but "here's a link to a really long study about Philadelphia" doesn't give me a whole lot of incentive to click.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2007


Perhaps this should be tagged "NYC's last affordable exurb?"
posted by lalochezia at 3:43 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there an article in Detroit's Metro Times a couple of years ago suggesting that much of the city be razed and turned into farmland???

I've read the same suggestion for Philly — that vacant lots be turned into small farms/large gardens so as to make the city more self-sufficient. Dunno how serious it was.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:48 PM on March 5, 2007


I think the real measurement of civic greatness to be made here is: which city's sports fans are the toughest? I'd put my money on Philly.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 3:57 PM on March 5, 2007


Not being snarky or anything, but "here's a link to a really long study about Philadelphia" doesn't give me a whole lot of incentive to click.

I feel you, I kind of thought the same thing even though I live here.

The most important part of the study, from my perspective, is the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, which was a genuinely well intentioned program that was designed to decrease urban blight by demolishing and then rebuilding tracts of abandoned houses in the poorest neighborhoods.

It's good that the study states that on top of 30,000 some abandoned houses Philly has another 20,000 vacant lots. That's important to note because the NTI has been big on razing and not so big on rebuilding. While there have been some fancy developments, like this one that I drive by every on my way to work, even these don't come without hitches. Brewerytown, which was for some reason touted as the next hot neighborhood in Philly, likely by the developers that got their hands on this tract of land, has these brand new townhouses now that are directly across from a massive vacant lot and a giant abandoned former brewery in a neighborhood with a high murder rate. I have a client around the way from this development, there's open air dealing on almost every corner every time I'm out there.

I'm curious to see what it looks like in 10 years. I don't imagine the developers are very concerned one way or the other.

Beyond that, NTI has also completely fucked a lot of families. A lot of those "abandoned" houses were actually houses that weren't up to code but were inhabited. Now, sure, you can argue that a family shouldn't be living in a house that isn't up to code and I would agree with you on that. However, the way L & I deals with the problem is to simply present the family with a list of citations a mile long, that they have nope hope of paying and a deadline by which to pay that they no hope of meeting. They do not connect the family to other housing resources or social services and very quickly the family is either in the streets or living in a house that's been condemned.

We have a couple clients in our program that presented with these circumstances and we were able to rehouse them using private funds. We've turned away probably five or six other families in this situation. Those families either double up in unsafe and unhealthy conditions with other family members or friends or they go to the shelter system. There aren't many other options.

In the meantime, a private developer razes the home, creating a new vacant lot, which they squat on without investing in any new development.

Alex and I have a friend who was working on a study about this; I need to catch up with her and find out what her statistical super powers have revealed so far.
posted by The Straightener at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2007


which city's sports fans are the toughest? I'd put my money on Philly

Ha. Baltimore fans would eat them for breakfast and still have room for morning beer.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:54 PM on March 5, 2007


Philly? Baltimore? Hogwash! Have you already forgotten The Malice at the Palace?

When your cities' fans learn to join brawls with visiting teams, then you talk about how tough they are.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 5:00 PM on March 5, 2007


> Not being snarky or anything, but "here's a link to a really long study about Philadelphia" doesn't give me a whole lot of incentive to click.

Part 1 includes a summary of the entire report, and you should at least read that. Pew's reports are quick reads and comprehensible by nonexperts (like me) when compared to scholarly research on similarly complex topics.
posted by ardgedee at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2007


Wasn't there an article in Detroit's Metro Times a couple of years ago suggesting that much of the city be razed and turned into farmland???

A quick Google search of urban farming in Pittsburgh turned up this article about an 80 year old farm in the middle of a very urban neighborhood. Very cool.
posted by octothorpe at 5:30 PM on March 5, 2007


There are quite a few co-op gardens in various neighborhoods in Philly, but, since they are mostly in newly desirable neighborhoods (Italian Market aka Bella Vista; Mount Airy; whatever the hell we're currently calling 13th and Federal) there's a bit of a fight between residents and greedy developers over most of the garden plots.

Anyway, after skimming this, I can say "Wow, I am even more glad that I don't live in Detroit."
posted by Mister_A at 5:56 PM on March 5, 2007


Nice story about the farm in Pittsburgh, octothorpe. Though once I found out about the second largest collection of saints' relics (allegedly) outside the Vatican, I stopped being surprised by anything I learn about this city. Somehow, I don't see that turning into another Faneuil Hall.
posted by chinston at 6:14 PM on March 5, 2007


...Detroit actually has $200 million to lose per year? It seems like the whole damn city is worth about a quarter of that right now.

I've been here my whole life, and right around age 22 the sweet skeleton of the city started stinking to me. For awhile, it can foster dreams of being some sort of artist living in a whole floor of a giant abandoned building for 600 bucks a month, but after you've had your fill of clubs and you begin to notice that other cities usually have people that walk around and actually work in them the picture becomes a little less inviting.

Philly seems like a lovely place, and for the few that say it lacks an identity -- Hello... Philly Cheesesteak?
posted by phylum sinter at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2007


It is interesting to hear people talk about cities' identities in this discussion, because marketing a city's image does seem to be the name of the game these days. Every urban center is scrambling to get its piece of the white-collar pie, and in order to attract such businesses they are building flashy new art centers, gentrifying downtowns, building fancy new parks, etc.

In this context, cities like Philadephia and Detroit are certainly the most fascinating (and in my opinion, inspiring) urban centers today. They are the places where money is not - the inverse partners of San Francisco, Boston, New York.

What will they become? What other, as yet unknown type of city might emerge from their extreme, disintegrated circumstances? Will parts of shrinking cities revert to rural areas again? Or will new people and eventually money be drawn to them precisely because they are not wealthy, and they have space to be slow, explore, live cheap, make art, and dream?

Lastly, if you are interested in the shrinking city phenomenon in general, you might want to look here.
posted by marlys at 7:00 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Interesting (and occasionally disturbing) report, and commentary.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:25 PM on March 5, 2007


From the link text, I was expecting something a little more James Blish. Also, I'm attendng a conference in Philly this week, but nobody cares about that.
posted by nowonmai at 8:45 PM on March 5, 2007


Look, we all love Philly and everything, but why should I wade through this rather lengthy academic tract?

Not being snarky or anything, but "here's a link to a really long study about Philadelphia" doesn't give me a whole lot of incentive to click.


Why should I get out of bed in the morning?
Why should I shave?
Why should I stop at stop signs?
Why should I be on time for work?
Why should I have a bagel instead of a croissant?
Why should I ignore an email from a particular colleague?
Why should I renew my subscription to Sporting News?
Why should I call my parents?
Why should I stop off for a beer on the way home?
Why should I fill up my tank?
Why should I scratch my elbow?
Why should I take the interstate home?
Why should I do anything?

A. Don't, if you don't want to. No one gives a rat's ass.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:26 PM on March 5, 2007


Thanks for the summary, The Straightener. NTI sounds a lot like the various "slum clearance" and "urban renewal" programs that gutted whole neighborhoods in 1950s and 1960s NYC. It's strange that people would be so eager to repeat the mistakes of the (recent) past.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:03 PM on March 5, 2007


Eagles fans are hardcore. In 1968 they pelted Santa Claus with snowballs & in 1999 they cheered as a Cowboy broke his neck. And let's not forget Eagles Court (now defunct because they tore down the Vet), possibly the only court in the nation with a sports stadium as its entire jurisdiction, created after a fan fired a flare gun across the stadium.
posted by scalefree at 3:05 AM on March 6, 2007


I have a client around the way from this development, there's open air dealing on almost every corner every time I'm out there... Beyond that, NTI has also completely fucked a lot of families...

Jeff, that would make a great series of articles for the CP or PW, especially given mayoral elections coming up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:38 AM on March 6, 2007


Like the darker side of eminent domain and related actions, not discussed by Mayor Street.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:41 AM on March 6, 2007


I worked security for the Eagles the last season at the Vet. I have seen some nasty things, such as chanting asshole and throwing beer on a family wearing New York Giants Jerseys. Nothing like seeing a whole section in the 700 level (top of the stadium) chanting asshole to a nine year old. It was an act of aggression punished by beating if you dared to wear another teams jersey up there. That being said, the fights were terrible, every time I would break one up and bring the people down to court there would be another waiting for me by the time I got back up to my section.

On a positive note, there was nothing like the energy of the 700 level when playing the Cowboys.
posted by Cool Alex at 5:29 AM on March 6, 2007


I love Philly, but it needs to start by getting rid of Mayor Street and his entire organization. Indicted villains from Street on down.
posted by spicynuts at 7:24 AM on March 6, 2007


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