Last week, author Howard Glilette, author of Camden After the Fall, wrote a piece for NewsWorks about the potential for Camden to become Philadelphia’s Brooklyn given that the former’s real estate boom may eventually price people out of Center City. It’s an interesting question. Can real estate prices from Philadelphia have a transformative effect on Camden, the way that New York’s market has affected Hoboken? Is the introduction of super-luxury condos in several Center City neighborhoods a foreshadowing of things to come? If so, can they affect the market so much that they end up pricing out those who wish to live nearby, poising Camden to take advantage of the overflow demand?
As provocative a question as it is, I think it’s already been answered in the short term. In a smaller city, the answer might be yes, but Center City has a plethora of neighborhoods on its periphery both pre-, mid-, and post-gentrification, and nearly all have excellent transportation to and from the jobs downtown. Philadelphia has yet to run out of space to absorb those who wish to live in the city and close to their jobs.
The more interesting question to me is, what happens to a city when gentrification fails to act on it? When it has basic needs that must be met, when there are people whose jobs it is to do so, and yet those needs go unfulfilled? And are real estate forces the only thing that brings attention and thus safety and investment to a city?
I recently wondered this out loud in an essay that Stephen Danley was kind enough to publish on his Local Knowledge blog about Camden.