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It’s a familiar story; a working class neighborhood experiences an influx of investment, bohemian coffee shops open, public opinion on street art shifts from graffiti to social commentary and, finally, a high end grocery store opens in an industrial looking building. Yes, Fishtown is experiencing symptoms of gentrification. However, this is a self aware process. The city of Philadelphia, along with community development organizations, take steps such as subsidizing new housing to ensure that residents aren’t pushed out of this unique neighborhood. Additionally, Philadelphia is no stranger to the ‘G’ word. Consider the positive transformations of Fairmont, Somerton, Manayunk and Mount Airy. Perhaps gentrification, with its negative connotations, is the wrong word to describe the process taking place in this historic and proud neighborhood. Rather, what’s going down in Fishtown is a renaissance–a process of looking forward while valuing the past.
No one has described what’s going on in Fishtown better than John Oates. A music venue, the Fillmore recently opened. The opening act? Hall and Oates. The night of the performance, Oates commented, “It’s a first tonight for you; it’s a first tonight for us. Here in Fishtown — how about that? I used to be scared to come up here.” Yes, Fishtown has a past that includes some nitty and gritty–but nitty gritty-ness is what drew people here in the first place. North of the relatively exorbitant Center City, east of collegiate oriented Temple and bordering the Delaware river is Fishtown. Fishtown has a history that predates European colonization. Once home to the Lenni Lenape Native American tribe, the neighborhood developed around the influx of German, Irish and Polish immigrants. The neighborhood served as a commercial fishing hub and center for industry. Even as industrial jobs left, long time residents found new jobs and ways to make ends meet. Bohemian types, musicians, culinary artists have been moving into the neighborhood for years for its relatively affordable housing and old-school city feel.
There are several green spaces/community gardens in Fishtown. The largest and most scenic park is Penn Treaty Park. It has large green spaces dotted with old sycamore, willow and elm trees. It includes a bank of the Delaware river and views of Center City and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The space is where William Penn famously signed a peace treaty with a sect of Lenni Lenape in 1683.
Transportation is easy in Fishtown. Hop on the “L” (SEPTA’s Market Frankford elevated train) and get to Center City in 20 minutes. Or, for a more nostalgic approach, take the Girard Avenue trolley. Once a horse-car line, the trolley line dates back to 1895.
Due to the combination of new construction, older homes and renovated older homes there is a plethora of choice when purchasing real estate in Fishtown. Renovated homes are very popular and relatively affordable when compared to prices in higher income neighborhoods. With plenty of choice it’s easy to find the right home relatively quickly.