The neighborhood north of Girard Avenue and west of Broad Street is near Temple University, but it is not populated mostly by students like the neighborhood just west of the campus. This neighborhood, that is too far north to be called Center City, but south of the Temple campus, is a very residential neighborhood called Sharswood. For many decades, it was one of the very blighted, low-income neighborhoods that gave North Philadelphia its reputation of being poor and blighted. But, in recent years, it has seen so much redevelopment that it is another example of North Philadelphia’s revitalization. In fact, it is accurate to say that the Sharswood neighborhood has been largely rebuilt. On the western end of the neighborhood, though, west of 20th Street, one can see what the neighborhood used to look like. In that area, in the shadow of the huge Blumberg housing project, are blocks with many empty lots and long abandoned buildings. That area was just recertified as blighted by the Planning Commission last week. But east of 20th Street, you see the future of the neighborhood, and increasingly, so much of lower North Philadelphia.
The area of Sharswood between 20th & Broad has been mostly rebuilt by a series of developments known as the Cecil B. Moore Homeownership Zone. These developments, begun in the late 1990s by the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development, started by building new owner occupied townhouses on empty lots and renovating a few other old townhouses as affordable apartments. Over the years, they expanded to rebuilding whole blocks with colorful, suburban twin homes made of brick with wooden porches and garages below the street level. These homes have small (but sizeable for this neighborhood) front and back yards.
Then the Cecil B. Moore redevelopment began a much larger redevelopment for five blocks running along 19th & 20th Streets. These homes started a few years ago and the final phase has just been finished. These homes are clearly meant for the lower middle class and provide a suburban-like layout in the middle of North Philadelphia. They are wider than most city homes, with large garages in front, and they have sizeable front and back yards. They have peaked rooves and vinyl siding, not typical for the city.
As if that rebuilding wasn’t enough, developers have started to renovate and build trendy new apartment buildings along 15th & 16th Streets, primarily for students, just north of the rapidly revitalizing Francisville. One interesting building is a very modern prefab building called The Modules on 15th. This four-storey building was made of prefab rooms that were lifted, by crane, into the frame of the building. The rooms were assembled in a factory and transported to an empty lot down the street, then placed into the frame as it was being built. It is a very modern contrast to the adjacent Victorian townhouses next door. It is, also, across the street from a garden apartment development, built in the 1980s, that is likely the first redevelopment in the neighborhood. This development was part of a series of city developments known as the North Philadelphia Plan, during the Goode Administration, that built several garden apartment developments in long blighted areas. These developments usually didn’t change the neighborhoods much, but they have been maintained well.
Anyway, the first sign of major redevelopment near the Blumberg project is a large development called the Sharswood Homes. These homes are smaller than the Cecil B. Moore homes, but they also have back yards. They are likely meant for middle class and low-income residents, and have been well maintained and successful despite their still blighted surroundings. They are a new development in one of the last seriously blighted sections of lower North Philadelphia, just west of Ridge Avenue. Soon, the whole of Sharswood will be redeveloped and renovated like in the Cecil B. Moore Homeownership Zone.
To find out more about the Cecil B. Moore Homeownership Zone and the redevelopment of Sharswood, check out the link, above, to the Office of Housing & Community Development. The photo, above, is of an early phase of owner occupied townhouses and the photos below are of the recent phase.