As any local will attest, there is no shortage of discussion about how much the River Wards in recent years have changed, and are continuing to change.
It’s not too often, though, that a community meeting is focused solely on that discussion, as well as on how such change might affect a neighborhood’s future.
Such a meeting did take place, though, on Aug. 7, at Fishtown’s Lutheran Settlement House, 1340 Frankford Ave. LSH invited the Fishtown community and surrounding neighborhoods to the discussion in hopes of determining how demographic changes might affect LSH’s ability to be a valued neighborhood resource.
More than that, though, the meeting was a thought-provoking conversation about the positive and negative effects of gentrification, as well as changes in residents’ levels of income, education and creative and business pursuits alike.
At the meeting, it became clear to attendees that change in the River Wards isn’t just talk. According to U.S. Census data made available by Policy Map, the 19122, 19123, 19125 and 19134 ZIP codes are largely becoming wealthier, younger and more educated. See the information box below for the specific numbers, which were presented at the meeting. 19123, which includes Northern Liberties, by and large saw the greatest percentages of change over time.
“It’s pretty clear there have been some pretty significant changes in these neighborhoods,” said Sarina Issenberg, current community assessment intern at LSH, who led the 6:30 p.m. meeting.
Kelly Davis, executive director of LSH, said at the meeting that LSH enlisted the help of Issenberg to conduct what is essentially community research.
“How do these [neighborhood] changes inform Lutheran Settlement House’s future as a community organization?” Davis asked at the meeting.
LSH has been in Fishtown for 112 years, Davis said, and is undergoing sweeping changes to, as she put it, “harness the new energy of the neighborhood.”
Davis also mentioned that the LSH building will undergo 1.3 million dollars’ worth of renovation and changes, funded by the state, and will see the addition of green space and a 24-bed urban farm across the way, along Master Street, where teenagers affiliated with LSH programs will work alongside seniors to tend to the farm.
It’s all an effort, Davis said, to make sure LSH keeps up with how the surrounding neighborhoods are changing.
Veronica Szymanski, human relations representative for the city’s Commission on Human Relations was present at the meeting, and said she has perceived a great change in the River Wards neighborhoods, but that she wasn’t sure if those changes were overwhelmingly positive or negative.
“The downside to these changes is some people are being displaced,” Szymanski said. “People need more information about how to assess their homes, how to work with L&I, do taxes and documentation, and get people to meetings,” she said.
“Younger people need to recruit older people to get involved,” Szymanski continued.
Steve Honeyman, who has worked in and out of River Wards neighborhoods for many years, said that he believes it’s important to keep several things in mind when considering the neighborhoods’ changes, particularly when it comes to generally rising housing prices.
“The most important thing is that this whole area remain a mixed income community,” he said. “How do you keep some piece of housing affordable?”
Changes in the neighborhood, Honeyman said, happen gradually.
“Waves of gentrification don’t just happen. First come the professionals, and then later, children. How good or bad schools are is a big factor,” Honeyman said. “People think [gentrification] just happens, but it’s a process. ull;•
See below for statistics on the changing River Wards. All data from the U.S. Census, courtesy of Policy Map.
Median Income of a Household (2007-2011)
19122: $19,832 (an 8.27 percent increase from 2007-2011)
19123: $45,665 (a 108.69 percent increase from 2007-2011)
19125: $40,647 (a 40.12 percent increase from 2007-2011)
19134: $23,850 (a 10.97 percent increase from 2007-2011)
Philadelphia County, 2010: $36,957 (a 20.20 percent increase from 2007-2011)
Percent Change in the Number of Homeowners (2000-2010)
19122: 4.01% increase
19123: 18.62 % decrease
19125: 59.41% increase
19134: 8.29 % increase
Philadelphia County: 7.18% decrease
Percent Change in the Number of People Age 18 to 34 (2000-2010)
19122: 49.74% increase
19123: 124.22% increase
19125: 30.52% increase
19134: 15.85% increase
Philadelphia County: 15.27% increase
Estimated Percent Change in the Number of People with At Least a Bachelor’s Degree (2000-2010):
19122: 66.50% increase
19123: 189.58% increase
19125: 233.25% increase
19134: 81.48% increase
Philadelphia County: 27.66% increase