As a new school year quickly approaches Philadelphia’s youth are preparing for another round of academics, entering the 9 ½ month stretch before the sweet release of summer vacation. But unlike school-aged students, those attending colleges and universities must adapt to change quickly. However, there may be a few distractions to add to the mix for students at Temple University as their campus has been caught in the crossfire of gentrification for quite some time, with polarizing opinions on both sides of the issue.
On one hand you have those who look at gentrification as an upgrade to neighborhoods that have been neglected for far too long. Conversely, you have those who believe gentrification brings higher rent, higher taxes and a slew of new neighbors that don’t care as much about community as the old neighbors.
Such has been the case for residents in the surrounding area near Temple University, which is proudly situated in the heart of North Philly. It is the exact same area mentioned a few years ago when Philadelphia Magazine posted its highly controversial article ‘Being White in Philly’. The author, Robert Huber, opened his piece by stating his son attended Temple University and then went on a diatribe about the pervasive fear that permeates the neighborhood just steps away from Temple’s well-lit campus. And if the article’s main job was to garner attention it succeeded greatly.
Cannot escape #BeingWhiteInPhilly. Cashiers at Whole Foods express checkout having a serious debate. I only came for sushi.— Emaleigh Doley ☔️ (@emaleigh) March 25, 2013
.. The problem isn’t the article ..its the fact that much of what was said in the article is TRUE #BeingWhiteInPhilly— JOVI B∆B¥ (@itsJOVIbaby) March 5, 2013
In all fairness, the Philadelphia Magazine article didn’t particularly spark the idea of gentrifying the area around Temple’s campus because those efforts have been constantly ongoing. However, what it did accomplish was exposing the different attitudes from longtime residents and those who had no qualms demonizing a section of the city that many had been calling home for decades.
Tensions mounted even more when Temple began throwing around the idea of constructing a brand new state-of-the-art stadium on North Broad Street. Though the idea came and went there’s still a huge amount of trepidation from community members who are still leery in the aftermath of Temple’s silence. Therefore, as a means of facilitating discussion, Temple implemented a committee called the North Central Special Services District earlier this year, featuring five members from the community along with four representatives from Temple University.
In an interview with The Philly Voice Board President Joan Briley, a lifelong resident of Norris Street near Temple’s campus, was optimistic about the committee saying “I am really excited about this district because we’re going to be working together with Temple to keep the neighborhood clean and safe for both the neighbors and students.” However, not everyone shared in her enthusiasm, as members of the community opposing the consistent gentrification efforts expressed their displeasure with the changes to their neighborhood.
The idea of the stadium is still a very real concern for residents who know that it would bring more traffic and higher living costs once built. And although the North Central Special Services District’s aim is to improve community morale and eliminate issues with crime, there are still many who don’t believe their true intention is to engage with the community.
In an effort to make their voices be heard the community activist group The Stadium Stompers (@stadiumstomper1 on Twitter) have banded together to remind everyone that they are not here for any new stadiums in their neighborhood. As a matter of fact, their aim is entirely for the empowerment of North Philadelphia as a whole. Their mission statement reads “Stadium Stompers is a movement of community members, students and faculty coming together to stop Temple’s stadium and build power in North Philly.” They have been beating the streets by protesting as well as attending community events with local and state representatives to spread their message. And they will continue to speak their truth by any means necessary.
Though no definitive plans have been made in reference to the new stadium as of now this issue is sure to be a constant buzz in the background until a final decision has been made. But no matter what side of the issue you personally fall on, the most important thing is that people are expressing their opinions calmly and rationally. And that’s the kind of democracy we need in this day and age.