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Located just north of Center City, Northern Liberties was an affordable spot for artists and musicians into the 1990s, but tour the area and it will be obvious that it has almost completely gentrified. Historically, this area was chock full of industrial buildings, big brick factories and modest brick row houses for the workers who kept the lines moving at these businesses. Many of those commercial buildings are now gone, replaced by some very modern condominiums and townhouses, often with “green” construction and finishes behind them, a casino and some high-rise condominiums. And the brick row houses quite often have undergone makeovers to turn them into luxury living spaces that would be unrecognizable to their previous owners.
Northern Liberties also is home to a number of low-rise luxury condominium buildings and loft-style living spaces in converted factories. It also contains the Northern Liberties Historic District, dedicated to preserving the area’s Federal, Italianate and Greek Revival architecture. There are 209 residential and commercial buildings in this district.
Many people choose Northern Liberties for a couple of reasons: its proximity to Center City (via the Market-Frankford El); its affordability compared to other parts of the city; and its overall vibe, which is definitely a little looser and younger than, say, Society Hill. The neighborhood now has a lot of amenities, including the Piazza at Schmidt’s, an 80,000-square-foot, open-air, mixed-use area that includes a giant 40-foot Jumbotron for watching Philadelphia sports teams year-round and lots of restaurants; Liberties Walk, a mostly residential development; Orianna Hill Park, where dogs can run off-leash; and Liberty Lands, a park and playground. Learn more about the area from the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.
And where are the artists and musicians who can no longer afford or don’t want the Northern Liberties scene? Those who feel priced out of Northern Liberties often have moved on to nearby Old Kensington and Fishtown, though those neighborhoods are gentrifying as well – a testament to just how popular Philadelphia has become, perhaps?
Northern Liberties is booming with new construction projects. In most cases, they are multi-level townhouses averaging 3 bedrooms and 3000 square feet or larger. Often this new construction is required to have off-street parking — parking on the street can be difficult, and it’s not a neighborhood with an excess of large, public parking garages. Many are “infill” construction where vacant lots or abandoned commercial buildings once stood. Many have rooftop decks to take advantage of the fantastic Center City skyline views available to residents of this northerly neighborhood.