Is West Philadelphia becoming to Center City as Brooklyn is to Manhattan? Well lets take a look; it has a downtown "University City"; Industry- Medicine, Science, and Education; a growing population of students, yuppies, hipsters, and soulsters integrating into long time established African American communities; a historic identity as the streetcar suburb; culture and beautiful parks and museums; numerous direct public transit options to Center City; and most importantly neighborhoods with a lot of growing potential. Although it does not quite rival North Philadelphia Neighborhoods with residential renovations and new construction, West Philly has been more of a renovation town and growing urban farming community. Most renovations of historic Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, and Powelton Village were encourage by the University of Penn's goal to integrate faculty, students, and neighbors into a well diverse community. Now Drexel University is planning similar initiatives for its neighborhoods north of Market Street.
Photo by Flickr user TS Drown
Newly appointed Drexel University president, John Fry along with a team of bold innovative thinkers are building what PhillyMag says could be the city of the future. As Fry presented his major theory of growth early in October he asked, "If Anthony Drexel were to walk today from the Main Building, where the Drexel Institute was founded almost 120 years ago, through our campus and into these neighborhoods, would he be satisfied that we are fulfilling our obligation as an urban university?" Frys answer was no. Fry proposed a few ambitious but achievable goals like, Drexel University becoming the most civically engaged university in America, increasing policing and public-safety infrastructure spending, a generous neighborhood home- ownership loan program for employees, and a proposed university takeover to improve a nearby elementary school.
The short-term goal is to make the northern University City neighborhoods around Drexel more like the clean, tree lined, charming, and prosperous precincts that adjoin the Penn campus. Fry spoke on a stretch of desolate rail yards lining the west bank of the Schuylkill, sprawling northward from 30th Street Station, of which he has great visions for. The sparse use of the tracks have created possibilities of air rights and plat-forming. Looking at the amazing views of Center City and the Art Museum he imagines a campus expansion to the west banks of the Schuylkill via the rail yard. But the real big idea that Fry and some others are developing is to create a University City that rivals Center City, where jobs are created by two major universities, a large teaching hospital and medical research center, a world-renowned children's hospital, and the nation's oldest urban scientific- research park. All of this will finally occupy a neighborhood with a stable and attractive housing market, a vibrant street scene, a growing restaurant culture, upscale retailers, the arts, and the kinds of schools families can feel comfortable sending their children to.