6.24.2011

All American Street


I had my first experience serving on a Technical Assistance Panel for Urban Land Institute yesterday. We were looking at a mixed-use infill concept in an industrial section of Philadelphia, on American Street. But I also found the walk to the site fascinating.

I've been so busy this week that I barely had time to take a quick peek at how I would get to the location by public transit, so didn't have much time to think about where I was going, so when I got off at the York-Dauphin Station on the Market-Frankford Line, I really had no idea where I was.

I quickly surmised that this is a heavily Hispanic section of the city, as evidenced by the storefront signs in Spanish and the colorful displays of the Virgin Mary in backyards. Then I was stopped cold by the biggest Puerto Rican flag I have ever seen. Actually, let me correct myself: it was the biggest flag of any kind that I have ever seen. So that was a pretty definitive marker of the neighborhood.

American Street is pretty funky, in that it is super-wide and historically industrial, and even with the significant reduction in industrial activity and employment over the past 60 years, the street is still dotted with trucks and factories and loading docks. And yet, turn down any side street and you are immediately in heavy residential. On the way in, these streets were largely empty, but on the way out, kids were playing frisbee in empty lots, women were chatting on the porch, and tough-looking young guys were blasting their stereos.

My Philadelphia existence is largely contained to University City and Center City, so it's fun to see other parts. What a colorful and diverse city it is.
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