City approves large residential/commercial building at 43rd and Baltimore

June 17, 2015

The proposed apartment complex at 43rd and Baltimore.

The proposed apartment complex at 43rd and Baltimore.

After weeks of delays, the city has approved the proposal for a large residential building at the corner of 43rd and Baltimore that will include a large restaurant overlooking Clark Park.

The planned glass and brick building at 4224 Baltimore Ave., which has been two years in the making and has included a half-dozen community meetings, will include 132 units, a mix of upscale rental apartments aimed at young professionals and condo units for sale. It also includes 65 underground parking spaces and 50 indoor bike parking spaces.

The Spruce Hill Community Association zoning committee, the Friends of Clark Park and the University City Historical Society all approved the plan, but the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the city governmental body that reviews zoning variances, narrowly approved the project 3-2, according to Plan Philly. Opponents argued that the proposed building, which required a zoning change to include a five-story wing, would be out of character with the rest of the block. 

Officials from project developer U3 Ventures told community groups in a March 2014 meeting that informal talks had begun with retailers to find tenants for the 17,000 feet of commercial space, which will include a large fitness center and a full-service restaurant with outdoor seating facing Clark Park along 43rd Street. Other retail options include a dry cleaner.

Mike Lyons

108 Comments For This Post

  1. christina Says:

    i’m not going to comment on whether this is a good, or bad, thing. People will piss and moan and then move in and eat at that restaurant anyway b/c we’re human beings and that’s what happens.

    but my point is this: i can only hope that if i’m ever in that restaurant overlooking the park, that the homeless woman in the pillbox hat who likes to drop her pants, lean up against that one tree and take a dump, is actually in the park.

  2. Corey Says:


    I can’t agree with you on that one. That kind of entertainment would likely compel the restaurant to have a cover charge.

  3. Rich Wexler Says:

    This to me is a prime example of how gentrification goes against the culture of the neighborhood. I am not against development but this type of development I find to be geared towards the wealthy and not give much back to the working people in the neighborhood. It is a waste of space that could be used to develop a school, or anything thing else that reaches more than a few hundred wealthy people. If they would have taken say half the building and put in affordable condos for working class people, then I would have no problem with it. If they say offered cheaper rent for non profits in the area in conjunction with retail spaces for higher rent, then you actually support a neighborhood, but to use up that much prime space for a small group of people will lead to this neighborhood pushing out all the good people and good things that this neighborhood is about. And I see that process as classist and racist. If you wish to join a discussion on these issues I have started this group. Isn’t there a way for developers to make a drop less of a buck and still make good money while creating opportunities for all of west philly residents, and not just the ones who have lots of money?

  4. Me Says:

    It’s great that Rich has created a group (although it probably would be more constructive if it weren’t “closed”) to discuss the larger issue of gentrification. But as far as this specific example? People like Anthony West, who attended the community meetings about this from the beginning, have explained over and over again that 1) the developer paid $3.5mil for that property and was simply not going to put in anything that wasn’t strictly for profit. You’re not being realistic if you thought that developer was ever going to be talked into making a school or community space out of it, or, say, offer cheaper rent to a second Mariposa. And 2) if this wasn’t approved, the alternative was a way uglier cement box of by-right student housing. It’s the lesser of two evils. Whether you agree with the second point or not (some don’t), there was a time for community involvement in this project. That time has now passed. Now we’re seeing a bunch of people waking up to this for the first time, not realizing the efforts their neighbors have put into trying to steer this project away from the worst possible scenario. Oh, it’s ugly? (And this isn’t addressed to Rich but to some of the young kids who suddenly have an opinion on this). Where the hell were you in those community meetings?

  5. Clark Park fan Says:

    Next step: Petition the developers for a PUBLIC BATHROOM on the lower floor with some level of security.

  6. lipton Says:

    I was at these cynically titled “community meetings” which were mostly forums for local developers to push for this project. It was obvious that U3 had the intent to upzone this parcel before anyone said a word. All anyone needed to say were the words “parking”—“multi-use”. This would give them the ability to plead hardship so that they could build higher and only include upscale luxury units to enable them to meet “community demands.” . This is the problem with real estate and rent prices today; even though construction is up, most of the built units are luxury condos or rentals. Not many developers feel compelled to make affordable or even normal market-rate housing. Thus, even though construction is ramping up, the average rent is also increasing because developers do not want to make buildings for working class or even lower middle class. It is no surprise that this transpired in this way.
    For real estate speculators, this ruling has set up quite beneficial precedent. Now all anyone has to do is buy up any old building (such as the 1870s house that used to sit on this lot), demolish it without going through the proper procedures and then let the land sit dormant for a few years-just enough time for homeowners to get indignant about the “eye sore” vacancy and then it’s “go time.” If you are happy about this development, then good for you; I assume you will have a lot to be happy about in the future as the historic fabric of this community is reduced to a bland display case of real estate investments. There were a lot of people name-dropping Jane Jacobs at these meetings to support their argument that density is always a good thing for a city. But they seem to miss the most essential part of her argument: a city is only as healthy as it is socio-economic diversity. If you are not happy about what has transpired, then you need to be more vigilant in the future. We need to be more active in promoting historic designation. Historic designation is not a total solution-since any billionaire can plead hardship (even UPENN!). But at least this creates a more robust discourse and allows for more for input between residents and developers.
    Furthermore, I wish more voices had been heard at these community meetings. Two years ago at the meeting, when the plan for the upzoned building design was first revealed, I commented on what I thought was a poorly designed building for the surrounding neighborhood. I think I made some people uncomfortable because it seemed like I was being disrespectful to the architect-but it needed to be said. I have since talked to a lot of people about this building and even those who are for the development agree that it is a visually unrewarding prospect. I think it would look fine in a less defined neighborhood, but it is going to be laughably awkward on 4224 Baltimore. Even the most gung-ho capitalist can’t deny that. There a lot of new buildings that are able to integrate in with their surrounding neighborhoods, but it takes more creativity than what was available during this process. As Omar replied to my comment at the meeting, “we are trying to attract young professionals who are not concerned with the aesthetic look of their building”. Well, they can eat their hearts out now. With that being said, I really wish more people had been vocal on how they really felt about this building before the zoning and during the meetings organized by U3 instead of just letting them devolve into a polite publicity stunt disguised as “community engagement.” Hopefully this will activate interest in the complex and fraught issue of real estate speculation in the area.

  7. SMH Says:

    We should not let people build things that you know actually pay property taxes and instead build schools. Just out of curiosity, do you know where funding for profoundly underfunded schools comes from? Here’s a hint, starts with “property” and ends with “taxes”.

    I do so tire of gentrifiers who complain about gentrification.

  8. notebook Says:

    answer to SMH: “We should not let people build things that you know actually pay property taxes and instead build schools.” four words: 10 year tax abasement. This allows developers to not pay full taxes if they can prove they have added value to the land parcel.

  9. SMH Says:

    So end it or shorten it. Or better yet half it by eliminating the abatement on the school districts’ portion.

    There are stacks of studies that show that even though the abatement gives a discount that at the end of abatement period the developed property is still more valuable than before and hence a net money maker for the city, i.e. because the city and the school district eventually see the full benefit of the new construction’s improved value in terms of taxes its still a win for the city in terms expanding the tax base.

    Personally, I’d like to see it trimmed to 7 or 8 years and stipulations placed on it to direct it to areas where investment could make the most positive impact on the value of surrounding homes but that in a word is fine tuning the abatement to most efficiently stoke reinvestment or if you prefer “gentrification’.

  10. Anon Says:

    Given the offer of

    a)X in property taxes for a vacant lot in perpetuity
    b)X in property taxes for a vacant lot for 10 years and then 10X in property taxes thereafter

    people will actually prefer a)?

    Or even c)0 in property taxes for a non-profit use that doesn’t pay anything?

    That’s nuts.

  11. SMH Says:

    Basically if you are arguing that the city should not give the temporary break on building up the taxable value of properties, you are still admitting that the city benefits from higher values. We need more non-poor people to help pay for schools and services. Go gentrification in other words.

  12. notebook Says:

    Anon-no. get rid of the tax abatement. Developers should pay all of the taxes. It’s nuts that cities offer this abatement to these companies. Sure, they save a lot of money but they would still be making huge profits anyway while our schools keep closing. This is why Wilson Goode tried to reform the abatement a few years ago. I wonder what these young professionals are going to do when they have children. Are these young professionals going to send their kids into the broken public school system if they cant get them into Penn Alexander. No, they are going to move back to the suburbs.
    What I find annoying about these discussions is that they quickly devolve into binary oppositions. If you critique a development, people automatically assume you are against all development and that you would rather see an empty lot. That just isn’t true. Gentrification is a stupid polarizing word- so lets not use it anymore

  13. SMH Says:

    Fair enough. Except in this instance people are actually saying they would prefer an empty lot or worse (in terms of taxes collected) a tax-exempt non-profit.

    Also its worth pointing out that individual homeowners also get the benefit of the abatement as well, not just developers, if they install a major improvement on their house. FWIW. If you make your property more valueable, rich or poor, and you bother to pull a permit and fill out the form, you can get an abatement.

  14. SMH Says:

    FWIW, the Penn Alexander or nothing notion is way, way oversold. Penn Alexander was not even the highest rated non-magnet public elementary in the last state ratings.

    And as a parent myself, I don’t really care if people are stupid enough to be cowtowed to the Penn Alexander hype, as long as they pay their taxes while they are here.

  15. seriously? Says:

    Just curious — how does one “gentrify” an empty lot that was most recently occupied by mansion size houses and that is primarily surrounded on 3 sides by student, rental housing? This is not a case of underprivileged local residents being displaced by a new upscale development. If you don’t like the design or the scale, you are entitled to that opinion; however, let’s not start revisionist accounts of gentrification. With respect to this project, that is just an objectively false narrative.

  16. Rich Wexler Says:

    The group is now public.

  17. Rich Wexler Says:

    I find it hard to have a real conversation when some of these posts seem kind of mean and condescending. I would ask everyone on here to at least hear each other and have a conversation, since the solutions are probably in the interactions. I do not find it very helpful in a conversation in which people judge others as wrong. I myself know I don’t know the solution so I am trying to learn, but based on the way a few folks interacted on here, I got very turned off by the insults and calling other folks wrong because they disagree with you. I don’t think that method is a very effective way to have a real conversation and be heard and listen to each other, so we can all be better informed.

  18. Patricia Says:

    It is true that all of those community meetings were bs. It was just an attempt to sell every time and the discussion there had no impact on zoning. Spruce Hill Community Association was full of people whose property values would raise as a result of this going up.
    The only reason going to a meeting or two wasn’t a waste of time is because I now know it wouldn’t have made any difference.

  19. gordon Says:

    Just wanted to add that sometimes it is helpful to speak specifically about what we fear or look forward to when change happens in the neighborhood, instead of just using the shorthand, “gentrification”.

    For instance, I’m sure that everyone wants:

    – low crime
    – low/reasonable real estate taxes
    – a welcoming residential culture for all
    – helping local businesses

  20. Tony West Says:

    Let us first dismiss the mistaken notion that Philadelphia, a city crippled by extreme poverty, can cure its ills by forbidding all new real-estate activity that might actually bring money into the city. I mean, come on guys … even the A-Space is hipper than this these days!

    I disagree with Patricia on the community meetings so many of us participated in. They were excellent. A model of community engagement for all developers in Philadelphia to follow.

    The trashy USciences student dorms Patricia is advocating (she opposes any home-ownership at 4224, which the community-designed project calls for) are not in line with what most folks around Clark Park want for their park. They want the best for their park, not the worst.

    Please, Patricia, allow us West Philadelphians at least one pretty park! And after we’ve handled its issues well, let us move through the rest of W Philadelphia’s parks & help to upgrade them too!

  21. Melani Lamond Says:

    Question to Rick Wexler: who do you mean by “working people in the neighborhood” and “working class people?” Can you be more specific? Thanks.

  22. 49ther Says:


    Talk about revisionism.

    ***how does one “gentrify” an empty lot that was most recently occupied by mansion size houses and that is primarily surrounded on 3 sides by student, rental housing? This is not a case of underprivileged local residents being displaced by a new upscale development.***

    By demolishing a nonprofit shelter for domestic violence survivors in order to build luxury apartments and condos.

  23. Rich Wexler Says:

    I am using working class/working people I am just referring to folks that are non white collar and most likely make in the range of 15,000-35,000.

  24. Anon Says:

    Rich, I suspect some of the negativity comes from years of shouting perpetuated by what I like to call “last-in gentrifiers.” When *they* came here, they were just looking for a nice place in neighborhood that they could afford. It’s everyone *else* who did the same after or is seeking to the do the same who is somehow problematic.

    Additionally, it is exhausting to see so much energy spent trying to force market-rate developers to become sub-market rate developers, complaining that a developer bought a property when the previous owner – a nonprofit – had every right to sell, attacking the tax abatement completely instead of trying to reform it or at the very least understand that is most effectively a subsidy to the building trades to allow them to get more work while continuing to charge their rates, which to be honest are more in line with the rates unions charge in NYC than our peer cities.

    You know what’s hard? Making sure your neighbors have access to information about the various and confusing property tax assistance programs available at the state and city levels. Advocating for more funding so the city’s emergency home repairs program doesn’t have a waiting list of years and years. Pressuring politicians for *real* affordable housing projects from skilled affordable housing developers instead of the BS that City Council just proposed: $1 city lot giveaways to developers to build “workforce housing” at a $180,000-$230,000 price point IN MANTUA.

    But it’s more fun for some and certainly a lot less work just to sit around and self-flagellate endlessly about being gentrifiers against gentrification and in often cases snidely call out fellow and prospective neighbors as problematic instead of bringing people together to do the hard work of advocating for things that would actually help.

  25. David Says:

    Well said, Anon. It’s easy for people to leave frustrated comments instead of working on something that would create meaningful change.

  26. Colleen Says:

    I live on this block and I am not looking forward to this. Not only are we going to have to deal with all that construction, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever find a parking spot again. There is not nearly enough parking involved in this plan to accommodate all the new residents and businesses.

    I’m all for making the neighborhood nicer, just wish my quiet block wasn’t going to be so overcrowded. Guess I’ll be moving!

  27. Andy L. Says:

    Whatever businesses move into the ground floor will be a big part of whether people love or hate this new construction. Let’s get some good stuff in there!

  28. Rich Wexler Says:

    Thanks Anon and David for thoughtful comments

  29. SMH Says:

    I’m curious about Patricia’s comments about how the community input process had no impact on zoning. The builders had a plan that they could build by-right with no community input. It was ugly and squat and had less retail. They changed their plan based on input and then had to those changes approved by ZBA, but the original plan could have gotten built with zero community input. People need to understand what “by-right” means.

  30. sickofcorruption Says:

    I was not trusting of the self appointed and then paid U3 llc. That was what bothered me about the project.

  31. Rich Wexler Says:

    I wanted to begin documenting the issues involved with Gentrification in West Philly and looking to gather multiple interviews on both sides of the issues and am looking for homeowners, neighborhood associations, realtors, developers, neighbors, business owners to create a short unbiased documentary about these issues in order that we can see each others views. If anyone is interested in a video interview, I would love to meet with you. If anyone wants to get involved with this PM me. Please email at 215-301-2914 or on facebook at

  32. Kate Says:

    Well, Rich Wexler, as someone who fits solidly within your crude “working people” definition– I make under $20,000 a year after taxes, though my family background is upper middle class and I have a 4-year college degree– I am very, very glad to see vacant lots replaced by apartment buildings that will sop up some of the rental demand in this neighborhood.

    I’ve been here in the same apartment for 3 years and hope to stay for many more. Even in that time, I’ve witnessed how West Philly has become a desirable place for professional types. I’ve kept an eye on rental prices in the area just in case my landlord decides to raise my rent. They’ve gone up and up and up. The biggest reason I can identify is that there is simply not enough housing stock to fit all of the young, relatively affluent singles and couples (and students on the teat of loan money) who want to live here. This is a safe neighborhood, with beautiful architecture, ample access to public transit, proximity to major employers/universities, tons of amenities, and lots to do. Of course it’s getting more popular! More people are coming, whether we like it or not. We can either blindly and hopelessly insist that things stay exactly the same (which basically guarantees soulless by-right development), or we can find a path forward that creates a beautiful, socially-economically diverse, racial heterogeneous, vibrant neighborhood with a strong tax base that supports neighborhood schools (without having to rely on UPenn’s largess.)

    I like my slightly shabby and affordable apartment, but many folks who could swing paying more in rent would rather get something shiny and new while still taking advantage of the neighborhood’s perks. If we have enough sensible new development, instead of my landlord being able to ask $1000/month for my weirdo slice of a slightly decrepit Victorian, I can happily stay here while the richer potential renters opt for the new construction and renovations that they prefer. And, frankly, as renter with no wealth and an awareness of LOOP and similar Homestead exemptions to property tax increases, I have only limited sympathy for homeowners who complain about modestly increased property tax bills, especially when they’ve basically struck real estate oil.

    Bah, I have too many thoughts on this.

  33. Gordon Says:

    Well said Kate.

    Sometimes more construction helps make it more competitive.

    I lived in DC a while ago and took home under 20k a year. I would have loved to pay less than $750 a month for a bedroom the size of a large closet…perhaps this is a great thing (other than the parking situation). Keep in mind that many new households with younger people are opting to not own a car – uber is popular….

  34. Rich Wexler Says:


    I could have heard you much better if you hadn’t
    started your post while insulting me. Insulting
    other people stops conversations from happening.
    Such as this one.

  35. Anon Says:

    @richwexler you’re rigid demand for commenting to happen in the way you would like is taking away from the validity of arguments that people such as @kate are making

  36. Rich Wexler Says:

    Rigid demand for not accepting being insulted.
    That’s actually has another name called respect.
    I can’t have a conversation if instead of being heard
    I’m being insulted. So it’s cool that someone insulted
    me but it’s my fault for being rigid about being
    treated with respect. That sounds a lot like victim
    blaming. And it’s what people do when they have
    no real argument and just insult you because
    you made them realize it.

  37. Confederacy of Dunces Says:

    This building is a disgrace, and many people know that, including people on the Zoning Board. So too the “community meetings,” which were a farce. Barry Grossbach and Tony West seem to cowtow to money/profits; they have thrown in their lot with realtors, developers, lawyers, promoters, and whatever you call the people who “design” these places (oofta). Here’s the legacy they have given us: a precedent of the “community” being agreeable to destroying the history of the area, which is what gives it meaning and presence and character, and replace it with commercial shopping strip style outdated glass and concrete, the same take-the-money-and-run development we are seeing destroy Powelton Village. We need to organize to prevent Barry Grossbach & Company from further damage to the area. They are in bed with developers, and they call themselves “the community.” They have robbed the real community of its voice. They pretend as if the neighborhood isn’t already thriving and well-occupied, diverse and successful. We don’t need overdevelopment; in fact, quite the opposite. We need now to manage and preserve the success we have. As it stands, we are going to be congested, overly dense, student-intensive, and start to see owners (stable taxpayers) vacating, at which point the neighborhood is going to go to blight, thanks to dunces at the helm.

  38. Another Anon Says:

    Have read it three times and still can’t figure what part of Kate’s comment was insulting to anyone.

  39. Rich Wexler Says:

    Another Anon, this part doesn’t seem insulting to you?
    “Rich Wexler, as someone who fits solidly within your crude “working people” definition”

  40. Rich Wexler Says:

    COD i liked your post and would just add I feel
    in some ways it’s also good to debate with these people
    to force them to state thier truth but to also
    come up with solutions that might benefit all parties.
    I don’t know enough about this to agree or not agree with your
    plan, but I always believe in public debate being
    a good way to figure out why people do what they
    do and see the faults and truths in both sides

  41. Rich Wexler Says:

    @tony west. I appreciate your statements and don’t know about the
    process enough to agree or disagree with your statement. I am curious to
    understand when you say West Philadelphians who you mean? Where do those people live?
    Dors that definition have borders to you? What is the the socioeconomic status, class, race, age, gender, of what you call West Philadelphians? I am only curious on how you define
    West Philadeclphians and the West Philadelphia community? And where they live? And who they are?

    Thank you in advance for your responses. I am also proposing that we host a debate that’s open
    to the community about how to best further the conversations of issues of gentrification so we can move ahead as a community and not just point fongers at each other (which I am not implying you are doing here)

  42. Rich Wexler Says:

    We should not let people build things that you know actually pay property taxes and instead build schools. Just out of curiosity, do you know where funding for profoundly underfunded schools comes from? Here’s a hint, starts with “property” and ends with “taxes”.

    This is another statement in which I find insulting. It seems very sarcastic
    and seems meant to insult, rather than encourage a conversation. I have to say that most of you, I feel were able to debate about these things, without making it personal, and I am inspired by this.

  43. Cork Says:

    You’re not “debating” though. You’re just lecturing strangers on the internet. You don’t appear to have much to contribute thus far besides “I’m offended,” so get off your soapbox, bud.

  44. Another Anon Says:

    Really a stretch to take insult at what wrote Kate. If you are expecting that level of deference, perhaps this is a conversation you are not equipped to facilitate. You are making this all about yourself rather quickly.

  45. West Philly Resident Says:

    1) This is probably as good as we are going to get as far as this building design. No, it is not ideal. But the developers did change the design and try to accommodate the wishes of the neighborhood. Developers are in the business of making money. Telling them they have to make affordable housing and sell it for nothing is not ever going to work.

    2) Neighborhoods change, everybody! Have you seen the houses around here? They have servant’s stairs. You know why? The people who built these houses were so rich, they had servants. The neighborhood changed (for whatever reason), and now it is changing again. Center City has gotten more expensive so people are moving North, West, and South. Our neighborhood is desirable so prices are going up and things are changing as they always will.

    3) That intersection already has businesses on two corners so it makes more sense to have some new store fronts there than anywhere else. Another restaurant in the area would be nice.

    4) I am tired of the “Gentrification” term. My wife and I are working middle-class people who moved into the neighborhood 13 years ago. We have tried to be positive members of the community and love our neighborhood. When I hear people talking about the gentrifiers, what I really hear is “F##k you, we don’t want you here.” Which is not nice or respectful or welcoming.

  46. COD Says:

    Yes since there are two small local repurposed historical buildings why not throw up a massive hideous commercial retail apartment building? Just kidding! We are all shallow people ready to erase the sky, ready to erase history (except when we travel, in which case we love love love historical neighborhoods, Paris ooh la la). We live to see our bland fat ahistorical faces reflected back to ourselves in bland flat ahistorical glass. We live to shop shop shop till we drop drop drop, so we dearly desperately hope there will be More Things To Buy in West Philadelphia. Not enough places to Buy Things in West Philly. (Hate the word gentrification. It’s not nice!) Shopping is nice! I can’t wait to shop on that corner! I am so excited to think of what I might buy on that corner. Let’s do it till we can’t do it no more: tear down all these icky old buildings and make West Phil. Magical glass mall where we can shop all the time and look at ourselves in the glass! There’s not enough to do around Clark Park so I am very glad to have a new place to buy something: what will it be? I don’t know and I don’t care! Parks are so boring; skies are boring; trees are boring. Big familiar glass buildings with retail and apartments are fascinating and so much better. More more more please and thank you!

  47. Rich Wexler Says:

    @Another Anon,
    You don’t seem to be able to see that there is an insult
    in thier because you act in the same manner. Insulting
    and judging. I also wasn’t facilitating it I was just trying to
    make sure people didn’t insult others because I wanted
    to make sure we could have an adult conversation and not
    act like children. But apparently that’s too much to ask:
    Keep ignoring the facts about this case and just keep burying
    your heads in the sand. When the truth comes out on
    the greedy practices of these developers, just remember
    this conversation in which it is predicted.

    Many of you have been respectful and considerate.
    The rest of you act like children. I have no interest
    in being part of a conversation where we can’t share
    common decency. I’ll gladly remove myself from this
    conversation since apparently standing up for yourself
    And others is not allowed. I appreciate the posts that
    didn’t include attacking others, name calling, and personal
    attacks. I respect most of what the folks on here said,
    the rest of you would do much better if you weren’t
    entirely defensive and actually heard what’s others said.
    But apparently that’s too much to ask adults
    on the Internet.

  48. Rich Wexler Says:

    This whole issue is just another example how a bunch of rich people come into a neighborhood only to make a large profit and don’t care anything about the people who live there. They always argue that it will make the neighborhood a better place and argue the trickle down theory, that if the overall neighborhood has more value, then everyone wins. But the trickle down theory never works. If these people actually wanted to make the neighborhood a better place for everyone they could do that by designing it that way. But they just want to make money like the rest of the 1%-ers. I am sure anyone arguing that this project is good will be benefiting financially. Its also apparent by reading this that the way it was done gave no actual voice to the community. Having these debates would be a lot better if people could actually be honest, or be self aware enough to see and admit what they were doing. Actually being honest.

  49. Johnny Canuck Says:

    “Hey hey hey…You better stop. Before you say something you regret.”

  50. mds chill Says:

    Small point of information, West Philly Resident: even people of very modest means had servants in the era the big ol Victorians were built, often just a young woman.

  51. Rich Wexler Says:


    I am not ready to accept that this actually needs to happen and that we have to allow it under the proposed circumstances. I think there is a way to fight this and either end the project, or force the project to be one that benefits all the community not just the 10% of people who will financially benefit from this. The arguments I have heard on the behalf of this project seem to benefit the same people who will make money on this. As I look around the world and see how this Capitalist way of operating is destroying us, I also look at my neighborhood and want to make sure this does not happen to my community. I am looking people who wish to work on this project in a collaborative way. I wish to organize a boycott campaign that includes art projects, protests, vigils, etc. But also something simple that doesn’t take up 20 hours of our lives for the next year. I am interested in organizing a funeral procession for the death of a space that could have benefiting all of the community, followed by a dance party (we have to have fun if we are going to fight this crap) Right now it just benefits mix of young professionals who can afford an upscale rental apartment, and the value of the people who own houses in that area. Does it benefit the professionals who run the coop, run after school programs, who run Food not bombs, The A-space, who make sure people are fed and have books, to people who run community run radio stations, etc. Where do those professionals live? Where are the new apartments for the,? If you are interested in getting involved please call Rich 215-301-2914

  52. Dude Says:

    Rich, you could have saved everyone a whole lot of trouble by being upfront that all this was ever about was trying to get the developer to build your theater school for you. This kind of stuff is why neighbors hate engaging on these topics.
    It’s so rarely an honest dialogue.

  53. gordon Says:

    I have no idea what’s going on now.

    I will say that I moved to this neighborhood about ten years ago and worked at a job making about $10/hour, and people were horrified that I lived on 49th street.

    I saved up and was able to buy a house.

    +1 to Kate. If we favor or oppose “gentrification”, let’s speak more about what we favor:

    – lower crime
    – walkable/bikeable neighborhood
    – supporting local businesses
    – opportunities for all, including historic residents
    – reasonable taxes

    etc, etc.

    “Gentrification” is a mysterious term, because it means different things to different people. Witness:

    If “gentrification” pushes out historic residents, then I oppose it and wish to find solutions.

    If “gentrification” pushes out the late-night, motorcycle-riding, fighting-and-gun-shooting crowd that used to patronize the third world lounge result in many police calls, I fully embrace it, and want more.

  54. Anon Says:

    @ Rich Wexler: It’s not clear what you’re planning to boycott, but I can’t imagine what you could possibly boycott that would make an impact on whether or not this project happens. In fact, any chance you had of stopping it ended when the city approved the zoning variance (but good luck with the funeral procession/dance party). The bottom line is that this project was approved in exactly the way it was supposed to have been, including with community input. While you and others may not like the result, the fact is that it had support in the community, including from the Spruce Hill neighborhood association. It may not be anyone’s idea of perfect, but the fact is that they had a right to build what many thought would have a worse alternative by right, i.e. no zoning variance required, so the community agreed that this was the best option.

    I also wish that you could stop being insulted (by someone referring to your definition of working class as crude, I guess?) for long enough to respond to Kate’s valid argument that one of the issues we face in the neighborhood is a lack of affordable housing and that increasing the supply of available housing stock may help to alleviate that.

  55. SMH Says:

    I am completely confident to bet that not this project represent more traffic to Mariposa coop. As a member, I in fact think Mariposa would be remiss in not attempting to flyer and reach out to the future residents of this project. Some people’s inability to be self-reflective about what to degree they are what they claim to criticize is shocking.

  56. Rich Wexler Says:

    I’m not insulted by anything and don’t take it personally. That being said I usually
    point out when people do this because it seems to be done to
    stifle a conversation. The Clark park association, the Baltimore ave association, and the spruce hill association all benefit financially from this happening in sons way or another. So just because they
    approved it doesn’t mean anything to me. I agree that we need to face the lack of affordable housing
    and this this increasing the supply of housing stock may help this. I just find it ironic that you don’t
    see how this project could have actually supplied some affordable housing. That it should have been designed like that in the first place. Even though these organizations could have accepted something
    worse they also cold have boycotted and fought it. Just because those groups sold out thier community to choose the lesser of evils, doesn’t make it the right choice. I can protest and boycott the businesses. I can boycot those businesses. I can protest the building so people have to hear the
    truth before they buy something and maybe change thier plan. I can share the travesty of how this thing went down and was string armed by greed of the developers and community members. Just cause something is already decided doesn’t mean we can’t force it to change or bring it down.

  57. SMH Says:

    Rich Wexler, if you are so sensitive about being treated sarcastically, stop advocating for destructive and outright dumb policies, particularly when you seem to have not bothered to get involved or educated on what zoning is actually about before you jumped in.

    Its noone elses fault you didn’t tune in when you could have made a difference or have a destructively shallow understanding of the issues at hand but you feel free to misrepresent everyone who disagrees with you.

  58. Rich Wexler Says:

    When people tried to shit down the Subway and lost. Others boycotted it and it eventually went
    out of busines. I’m just trying to do the same here. But it will probably happen naturally just like the subway because it doesn’t belong here.

  59. gordon Says:

    Rich, I don’t think that we agree on this, but if I could make two suggestions:

    1) more is less. The more you post, the more it looks like “Rich v the world”.

    2) timing matters. it’s hard to boycott something that isn’t built yet. It’s literally not concrete enough for people to understand what you are boycotting.

  60. Rich Wexler Says:

    I am not against anything or the world. I post more
    because it seems everyone else is just siting and
    letting these developers screw us. I post not for myself
    but for the lives of my community. For them to have opportunities
    even if they don’t have 350,000 dollars. maybe fight is a better word than
    boycott. I can’t boycott something that doesn’t exist but I sure can fight it
    actually happening.

  61. gordon Says:

    Rich, I gently suggest that you are up against a powerful profit motive on the part of the developer, and it has a lot less to do with the community (if the proper process was followed).

    I don’t know every last detail of the process, but I know this: developers are looking for profits (no matter where they are). There’s a lot more money to be made by renting a luxury apartment at 2x/sq. foot, than 1x for non-luxury units. If you convince someone to make less money, then you have affordable housing. That’s just the way it is.

    That lot sat empty for a long time. The less profit there is in the deal for the developer, the more years it would have sat…

  62. Rich Wexler Says:

    The first time that spot was developed was funded by the city mostly and the tenants only payed $1.
    I would have waited another 10 years for that to happen again. Also why it is a problem if some land
    sits idle until the right Project comes along? that land in next to a giant park so in that context
    it wasn’t really taking a lot of public/private space up. I would have waited years for a public space to be there that also could have made developers a good buck. But unfortunately they don’t want to just make a buck, they want to make massive bucks. A lot is us, including myself, won’t allow this to happen and shouldn’t. The people that allowed it just took an essential bribe in the form of knowing this building will make thier own properties more valuable. More people acting out of self interest and not caring about the needs of the whole community. I fight this on a government level and support people like Bernie Sanders so why shouldn’t I fight it In my own community. This projec represents the worst of our current system we have ok the government that is destroying our lives. If you can’t see that or feel hopeless about changing it, that’s on you. I don’t feel the same way.

  63. Anon Says:

    The Subway example is a good one, I think. I thought it was absurd that people thought they should be prohibited from opening a Subway, even though I personally didn’t like having a chain store on Baltimore Ave. The correct response, in my opinion, was for people who didn’t support it not to eat there, and that is exactly what happened and now it’s closed. Hopefully a lesson was learned from that experience and other chains will be discouraged from opening on Baltimore Ave. I don’t think there’s any chance of something similar working with this project.

    I also don’t think there was ever any chance of this turning out any other way. The developer would have been able to build something there by right (i.e. it didn’t need a zoning variance). That means something was going to go up there regardless of what the community wanted. Therefore, the only thing that was changeable was what exactly it looked like. The goal of community members who were involved was to get the best-possible use of the space. The community was in no position to demand affordable housing units.

    Spruce Hill (and other neighborhood associations) are made up of local residents. You and others who share your opinions are free to get involved and even run for their boards if you think they’re not adequately reflecting the opinions of the broader community, but they do reflect the views of at least a portion of the community (albeit probably skewered towards owners who do stand to gain more from rising property values than renters). Again, though, given that the developer could have built on that property by-right, there was nothing Spruce Hill or anyone else could do but to try to get the best-possible gigantic apartment building there and I personally, and many others, like the design of the project.

  64. SMH Says:

    This project so does not represent the worst of the city’s planning process. in fact neighbors got concessions that definitely improved it.

    Its also flat wrong to say the land was first developed a few years ago. That land was first developed in the 1880’s and has been residential private land since then.

    And while I share your enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, I have to say your pig-headednes on this while continuously comlaining about others giving you the same tone you give them is probably the one reason I have not already donated to his campaign, FWIW.

    Your position on this does not represent Social Democratic values, nor is it progressive. Please don’t conflate your contradictory views. Your opposition to this has nothing to do with what it would take to make Philadelphia a less poverty scarred city.

  65. SMH Says:

    Rich your fight here is not a fight for a better, more fair, less unequal Philadelphia. Its a fight for reinforcing many of the things that are actively destroying this city and making chronic problems with poverty and educational opportunity worse.

  66. Rich Wexler Says:

    SMH thank you for informing me on what my views mean. I had no idea because I forgot what a stupid idiot I was. I hate when that happens. You may believe that you have enthusiasm for BS but you obviously have to real Interest in supporting him. I have actually given him money and both of us are definitely pig headed. Although my pig headed was makes me less kosher than I’d like to be as a Jew. So based on your logic my behavior has caused you not to donate to Bernie Sanders? Wow didn’t know I had that kind of power. I do consider myself a democratic socialist which is why I have s tough time with that area being private meaning it can’t be developed for the pubiic good. Thanks for showing me the ways in which I am wrong. If you have any other advice on who I am and what I should do I could use an advisor of your impeccable insight.

  67. Cork Says:

    There’s that “polite, respectful debate” we’ve heard so much from you about, I guess.

  68. Rich Wexler Says:

    Cork. It’s hard to be respectful when no one else is being that way.
    I was trying very hard to be respectful in this conversation but
    I gave that up because I don’t like being treated like someone’s stepping stool.
    I starting being part of this conversation assuming it would be respectful but it’s not.
    And after being called enough names and being criticized just
    because I have a different opinion, I have given up. I was trying to be diplomatic
    but it’s really hard to do that with people who don’t have enough awareness to
    even understand or be honest about thier own actions. This whole issue comes down
    to greed, and everyone is trying to justify that because they are also making money
    in this process. It’s just a total lie, and when enough people just lie to me, it does offense me
    and I lose respect for those people. People like you just send sarcastic messages without
    even asking me a question. i am now guilty of this myself and was trying to create a positive
    envirornt in here to avoid being this way. But when the name calling starts I am as human as everyone else and usually stand up for myself with equal fervor. I don’t give a hell about what anyone says about me on here, of how they say it. People who insult usually do this because they have no argument and get mad when you point this out to them.

  69. Rich Wexler Says:

    If anyone wants to actually have an honest interaction and debate this stuff without
    Judging or name calling, I’m all for it,but for now I’m done with this ridiculous process
    in which you all justify having this space because it will benefit your property value.
    It all seems pretty transparent that you care nothing for this community only making sure
    to take care of yourselves. I am done with this futile conversation.

  70. SMH Says:

    “Its so unfair that people are slightly less judgemental of me than I am going to be in the very next sentence (and wrong to boot)”. Very grown up, Rich.

    If you want to get involved in Spruce Hill zoning for the future, I’m sure they would love the vollunteer time and to hear your perspective but when show up late to the party and say everyone who disagrees with you is wrong because they have, you know, actually bothered to commit both financially and psychically in the neighborhood, well that isn’t really a “conversation” is it.

    Homeowners should not be allowed to have an opinion on their neighborhood why again?

  71. SMH Says:

    Homeowners benefit from increasing property values, it’s true. But so does every single person who pays taxes or receives services from the city of Philadelphia. If you measure of who can have an opinion is that they can’t financially benefit from increasing property values, you have excluded every single person in Philadelphia, including yourself.

  72. Rich Says:

    SMH only a republican would argue that way. Enjoy your fancy restaurants and 300,000 condo as the rest of us check the free bin at A space to get Our next meal, which I know because I’ve done that many times. Keep taking care of yourself and forget to rest of us. To me this is not what west philly is about? Or at least what it used to be about. Sure I’ll spend 20 hours a week volunteering if you can pay my bills? I also have financially and physically given to this neighborhood for years. But you see I do it in away that helps others, which I thought was part of what good people do. I have worked for years at the green line so I could help pay mustangs money so they could eat and live. I run a theater company that’s free for teens and have helped do things that help out both our lives. Investing in a community so you can make money off of it is predatory. I grew up in the 70’s and was taught we are supposed to take care of each other, and make a buck by helping others not just ourselves. We do not share the same values. I am only late to the party because I had not realized the party was happening. I just want thier to be others parties for all of us in west philly not just for the wealthy. You don’t see this but it does not make me wrong.

  73. Rich Says:

    And now I am trying to open a school so I can offer parents affordable schooling options and give back the the community, but I am causing the problems here. At least when I make money I do it in a way that actually tries to help and financially support other people who actually need it because they can’t pay the bills. The 43rd space and spaces like that just take from th community.

  74. Anon Says:

    Rich: For what it’s worth, I am a renter and support the project. As Kate pointed out above, if rental prices are going up because there is not enough housing in the neighborhood, then adding more can help alleviate that upward pressure. I also accept that this is land that is owned by a private party and was zoned to allow the owner to put a huge building on it, so the only option with this project was to try to shape what that looked like, not stop it.

    I think rather than focusing on this development, which is not going to be stopped now, a better place for your energy would be to campaign for something like tax breaks for new developments that include certain percentages of affordable units. I understand and share your desire for more affordable housing and keeping the neighborhood socio-economically (and racially/ethnically) diverse, but the reality is that there is little to be done when land is owned by private parties whose goal is to maximize their profits. (Unless a zoning ordinance is needed for the owner to develop, in which case the community has leverage to force concessions). The only way private land owners will build below-market housing is to make it economically beneficial for them to do so.

  75. gordon Says:

    Rich, your need for economics classes is showing, I dare say.

    Successful businesses don’t “take” from the community.

    Why does Green Line always have business? Why did Subway shut down? Hmmm. Because the former provides something that people want, and the latter didn’t.

    Businesses that fail? They fail. They stop. They go under. As a business, if you offer nothing of value, you end.

    If there is a demand for X kind of housing in the community, it might not be YOUR demand, but someone wants it.

    The idea that “greedy” developers are “taking” from the community without “giving back” is such BS. The developer offers something that someone wants to buy.

    Oh, wait, it’s not you, Rich? You don’t want the $300k condo?

    Well, then, let’s stop everything!

    C’mon, seriously, Rich. Some people have the money to pay for expensive things. Not me, and maybe not you, but someone. That doesn’t mean that the person providing their service is “taking” anything.

    In fact, over the long term, it increases the tax base…something we NEED in Philly.

    You might say something more nuanced like “I don’t find high end developments to be socially or culturally helpful in West Philly”. Fine. But be specific and be nuanced.

    I’m a business owner. My businesses drain on community resources, per dollar of tax I pay, is significantly LESS than the average resident – that means I am HELPING you.

    The moment you suggest that I am “taking” anything in the community, you prove yourself quite silly. My business is only successful because it offers something that people want.

  76. gordon Says:

    Rich, I do think there is a space for all to learn. Email me privately and I’ll buy you coffee. I would like to hear your views and will offer mine in the spirit of learning. I am all for a passionate discourse, even when there is honestly, deeply held disagreement and a spirit of learning the other’s truth.

  77. Rich Wexler Says:

    Anon I appreciate your points and its good advice. That is where i will put my energy. thanks

  78. Rich Wexler Says:

    gordon, the green line is a great example. The green line makes a good amount of money I assure. But they also give a ton back to the community. I worked there and they paid out a lot of money to support the local music scene without ever caring if they got a dime back. They support farm programs so that the coffee they get is sustainable for the community. They set up shows and give artist opportunities to make money off their art, and if I know how they work, they probable give most to the artist. They donate a lot of food to charity organizations and they are now helping an ice cream business that operators out of their stores. They are an excellent example of a company that makes a profit but is designed in a way that also gives back a lot. If every business is West Philly operated like that, this would be a much better place to live, and has been because of the green line. I would agree with you that business that fail go under. But this does not happen in America because these businesses are too large to fail and when they do so, they are bailed out. I have no interest in a $300,000 condo. If I ever had $300,000 I would open a school and make it cheap for parents because economic plan involves helping out other people to make money, not taking from them. The 43rd building is giving to the buyers, but is taking space away that could have been used to help the entire community not just the people with $300,000 dollars. There is a demand for x kind of housing. its called affordable housing. If they built affordable housing they could have also supplied a need and made money. But they don’t care about such things, but I would argue the west philly I have been in the last 15 years at least has in the past. Right now I am not sure. The Rotunda on 40th, Scribe video, the Coop, The Church at Calvary, A-space, Green line, etc all provide a need to the community. They supply needs for folks that may have $100 dollars to their name to 300,000 dollars. That is the west philly I believe in. That is the place I have lived for 15 years. Of the long term it may increase the tax base (not actually sure what that means) but does it do anything to make the lives of the people who live here now? I guess the difference here is our politics. I am more of a democratic socialist. I am unsure how you define yourself. I do not think that taking money for a service, no matter what it is, is taking something from the community and I am sorry if that was the idea that was expressed. I don’t quite understand about how you are helping me, but I just trust you on that. All this development is also forcing people who have their heart, soul, and life in this neighborhood to have to leave it. I love it here and I don’t want top have to move just so a bunch of wealthy people can take my place. Isn’t there a way to develop for people with money, and for people living in poverty. I think I make about $21,000 in a good year and I have been slowly paying more money for the same space to a point I will be priced out. How is that fair? How is it fair that others can’t afford property tax out here because its risen so much over the years? Being able to provide a service such as this property on 43rd doesn’t make it right or ethical, And if they were going to take the profits and put in back in the neighborhood I would have no issue. Every penny I have made in west Philly has gone to helping out others as well as myself. I run a free theater program for teens. I ran shows for years to help support musicians. I am now working on starting a school so that folks have more educational opportunities regardless of how much money they have, and make it sustainable for parents. I see this building as only sustainable for a very few, not the community.

  79. Kate Says:

    Rich, it was not my intention to be personally insulting to you or to lower the tone of the debate. I’m sorry to have offended you, but if I’m honest I find myself offended by how ungenerously you read my comment and how quick you were to toss my honest attempt to engage politely with you in the trash.

    That being said, I called your definition of “working people” crude because I was critiquing a portion of your *argument*, not insulting you. Conversations about gentrification typically cry out for nuance– when people don’t even agree what the phenomenon in question even is, the discussions tend to go nowhere– and your definition lacked nuance. A person’s income and whether they work at a desk are only two of a multitude of factors that impact someone’s relationship with new development and the specter of cost-of-living increases in a neighborhood. The definition you gave ignores race (that’s a big one, in West Philly, obviously). It ignores socioeconomic background. It ignores education. It ignores a person’s potential economic mobility. It ignores the amount of time someone has lived in the neighborhood. It ignores whether someone is a renter or homeowner. It ignores whether someone is here temporarily or wants to stay for the long haul.

    When you say “there is a demand for x kind of housing. its called affordable housing,” it seems like you’re discounting that there are more ways to create a greater supply of affordable housing than just incorporating affordable housing into new development. Within reason, within limitations, development of market-rate housing can ease demand on old housing stock and keep average rental prices low.

    Anyways, to respond to some points made later in the thread, demonizing people who can afford a $300,000 house or condo is also not going to help West Philly. Economic *diversity* is important. I know, and it sounds like you do too, that it is difficult to even just live making not too much money, let alone give back. The primary way I can help my community is with my time, but that only goes so far (and a lot of people have neither much money OR time). I can’t afford to donate more than a few bucks to the Tool Share, or to Greensgrow, or to your theater program, or to our neighborhood schools. These things don’t just need time and a space. They need supplies. They need stability. They need money. Someone who makes 80K or 150K *can* give money, and they’re likely to give it in their neighborhood. A neighborhood where EVERYONE is struggling to make ends meet or lives on the constant brink of financial disaster is not a strong neighborhood.

    And also, let’s be clear, someone living in a $300,000 condo is not necessarily in, say, Koch brother territory. These are literally NOT 1%ers. And if they come without pushing the rest of us out, then they are potential assets– potential good neighbors, friends, donors, and citizens. We need to develop strategies for a future that accommodates ALL of us.

  80. Rich Wexler Says:

    Kate I am sorry if I misunderstood your comment, or if I generously read your post. I didn’t understand exactly what you meant and read it a different way. These conversations are tricky on line because they do lose nuance, tone, and interpretation. If I define someone in my way and you define it in another way then the conversation is tough. I am sorry if I misunderstood. I read the word crude and took it as in insult, but I see I was not correct in that so thanks. I do agree that I missed the factors you mentioned such as race, education, economic mobility, time in the neighborhood, etc. I was having a general conversation but believe me I take all those factors into consideration. I do agree that there are ways to create affordable housing in ways that have nothing to do with new development. I did not mean to demonize those people as to critique a developer that does not take into account the needs and the flavor of a community in creating a project. There is as much need to create affordable housing in that area as more expensive condos. My argument is about resources. That project cost probably 20-30 million? 5 million I don’t know. It will only serve maybe 300 people who live their. These types of projects should be created so many people of different economic situations have a nice place to live. To me putting that much money into as project that uses prime space and a ton of money could have gone towards creating something like the Coop, or The Rotunda, or a new school that would serve many more people. I use the 1% percent analogy because that particular project looks like it will make a ton of money for a handful of people and give nothing back to the actual community. If it was designed with a co-working space, or medical care, or an art center, then it could actually do these things. I agree that we all don’t have the time to do what we could to help others. I have chosen to do these things while it personally has made my life tough in terms of spending a few years on projects without making money. I agree with your theory but I hope you can see it as the trickle down theory. That if we give more opps to wealthier investors, then yes in a few years that might mean the overall community benefits, but since the days of Reagan till now, I just don’t see it working that way. That money seems to just go into more projects to make more money. Why not develop these projects to support the people with money and the ones without it? Those people need places to live now that they can afford, not in 10 years. The issue I see is that these projects raise the cost of living here, and I can tell you I have already seen way too many people already priced out. If my landlord was one of these people, I would have had to left west philly many years ago, but he is not. he is just trying to make a buck and do some good. This is the west philly I know, and the new University City vibe that is creating spaces like 43rd street show no respect to the flavor or history of this neighborhood. And that scares me. I feel like this neighborhood in terms of development seems to be doing more for people with money, since they can create wealth and ignoring those without it. I’d buy a condo if I could get something for say 75,000-100,000. Why couldn’t this project have been a mix of affordable and expensive apartments. Why couldn’t they develop the retail spaces so organizations such as Tool Share, or Greensgrow could afford it? It will most likely be a CVS or some other chain. All I am asking for is to keep things in balance. I don’t agree that this type of project doesn’t push out others. One example is to look at Penn Alexander. As that school has grown so has the cost of living in that area to go to school. So that the families who maybe lived there who say made 60,000-80,000 a year can no longer afford to live in that area since those houses now go for 450,000 and people had to leave because they could no longer afford the property taxes because it became too high. Those people were pushed out. I think this project will do the same thing. I think your heart is in the right place but I just don’t think we see this in the same manner. I respect where you are coming from and appreciate the conversation, but I just don’t see it the way you do.

  81. Rich Wexler Says:

    I do wish to apologize to @Spruce Hill, Clark Park association, Baltimore ave association and any other organization that I stated was doing harm or acting under motivations in which they also can benefit financially. I understand now that you all did your best to make something good out of a shitty situation. But I still think that the problem is that this project was created without actually surveying the needs of the whole community. If all of the organizations had input into the actual creation of the space and not just to approve the plan that was already established I think the space would look very different. its time we have more control on what is developed here, and that they are deveopled in a way that benefits the greater good at the time of creation not based on a trickle down theory that we all benefit. I think this conversation has gone good places but I would also suggest we have a debate in which all sides can weigh in to see if we tweak this project plan so it benefits more of us. I would invite anyone to a community debate on this issue and organize such an event in which everyone is heard and the process is democratic.
    I am interviewing folks for these purpose and will happily record your thoughts in a non biased manner.
    I need to stop having this conversation so I have time to more forward. I thank all of you for your patience and I have ;earned a lot.

  82. brendancalling Says:

    While I personally believe the project is quite ugly and deplore the fact that a homeless shelter for battered women was torn down to make way for it (thank you Jannie Blackwell, for more reasons not to vote for you), I have to say that this language about “gentrification” is, well, silly. Not to be mean or disrespectful.

    When I moved her in 1999 -I have lived in West Philly the entire 16 years or so I’ve been here- that area was already well into the gentrification/McPenntrification process. All you have to do is look at the BRT to see that this isn’t a case of low-income homeowners and renters being driven out by higher prices. That ship sailed a LONG time ago. Just look at the sale prices over the past 10 years. Sure, there’a a beautiful 3-story on 43rd a few doors down from Green Line that sold for $80K… in 1988. But by and large you’re seeing houses selling for well over $100,000 dating back to the late 1990s. I don’t understand how a $300,000 condo, in an area where a house like 4309 Baltimore Ave sold for more than $400K in 2006, is forcing people out.

  83. Rich Wexler Says:

    I see your point Brendan calling. I agree that my argument is not economically sound, but my argument is general. if you look at 34rd as one house with 20 (300,000) spaces then the value of it is worth ^,000,00. My argument is what happens to that area once the value goes up? The ship looked like it sailed a long time ago, but I would just like to help other ships that dock on the fringes the so called University area such as 52nd street not have the same fate. Thanks for your input. I am looking for a process in which we all meet, debate and then come up with a plan that could support the developers as well as the renters, homeowners etc. Shame on Janie Blackwell.

  84. Anon Says:

    @ Rich: One resource you may be interested in is Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, which was central to getting the Land Bank passed and recently launched a Development Without Displacement campaign. Here is their website:

  85. Rich Wexler Says:

    Anon thanks so much for that I will check it out

  86. gordon Says:

    Rich, the coop? The place where you can buy a loaf of white bread for $5.35? I’m surprised that you wouldn’t be critical.

    In general, I’m a bit disappointed that you would ask “what is a tax base?” without googling it yourself. Absolutely critical to this discussion.

    1) tax base: the total number of resources that contribute to taxes. Certain services are basically fixed price – ie. fire department coverage – regardless of the income of the area. Consider 46th and Larchwood to 56th and Larchwood. The former has at least a 5x (probably 8x?) income and real estate valuation. They pay significantly higher taxes. Do they require 5x-8x expenses on fire and police coverage? No. As a result, higher incomes/property values means more revenue for other things: parks, libraries, pools, quality schooling, etc.

    Generally speaking, large/strong tax bases mean better living.

    Considering Philly has closed schools and pools and has budget issues, I invite wealthy people to buy homes, and developers. It helps the city – generally speaking – to provide better amenities.

    Think of it this way – a city is just like a business. It offers certain things at a price. I want the city to offer more and better things. One way to do that, instead of raising taxes, is to get more people/properties/jobs to pay taxes. It’s like having a really good restaurant – it needs customers to survive, otherwise it closes down (see: Detroit).

    Consider this – consider equivalent neighborhoods in DC, Philly and NYC. Where do you want to live, financially? I think we all know that Philly is the better value. For what you pay, Philly offers more (Baltimore perhaps even more so, but pick carefully).

    Rich, I invite you to explain exactly why $300k condos don’t help, and ask that you stop saying it.

    I think you just mean, “$300k condos aren’t in my interest”. Fair enough. Your point has been made abundantly clear – many times. I hope you consider that there are many people in the community, and everyone has different needs.

    Some of those well-off folks might otherwise buy a $500k home instead of a $300k condo, and Rich, we know you would whine about rising property values! And what’s the mortgage on a $300k property – maybe $1300? That’s competitive with some high end apartments. Not 1% territory. Please.

    The messy part about democracy is that there are many people involved, Rich, and not everyone wants what you want.

    Another economics lesson to blow everyone’s mind:

    2) Anytime you participate in any market, YOU change that market a very, very tiny amount and make it harder for everyone else trying to do the same thing.

    Suppose you open a bakery tomorrow. In order to win business, you must offer the customer something a bit better than the bakery next door – so either you sell better bread at the same price, or sell the same bread a bit cheaper.

    Notice what has happened: the fact that you want to make a living selling bread makes it SLIGHLTY more difficult for your competition, to make that living. A bit counterintuitive, no? Opening a bakery makes it HARDER for everyone to sell bread and make a living! Weird.

    Notice that the example above translates if you want to get a job in theater, or as a computer programmer. You must offer something better. Everyone must compete.

    I invite you to study more about economics, and I invite you to explain why businesses don’t make things better for the community, and if you can’t explain that, I gently ask you to consider no longer bringing it up.

    3) Your comments have a lot of “they should” and “they ought”. “Should” is a very slippery term in discussions of economics and markets. We “should” all do many things: campaign against nuclear weapons, abolish the slave trade. There are many “shoulds”, but it’s sort of like dancing on the head of a pin if you don’t know how to move from “should” to “is”.

    If you know how to convince the developer to make less money and go with market or below market housing, go for it. I don’t know how to do that. That ship has sailed! If you want to make change with regards to affordable housing, do it, but consider that you are building a movement, and your time frame needs to be over 10 years or more.

  87. Rich Says:

    I am done having this conversation. I could argue with you for hours and you would not see my points. if you believe in what you are doing and whats happening on 43rd street than why do care what I think? Either you feel I have a point and you are not sure if what you are advocating is right, or you are just spending a lot of time just to tell me how wrong I am. Either way it is fruitless and I am done with it. If you want to learn more about what I think. then you can hire me to teach you about it. After all isn’t providing a service that people want, your main argument. I have spent many years and funds to learn about these things. So I can sit down with you for $250 an hour and we can have a chat. Look you have already taught me so much about economics.

  88. Gordon Says:

    Rich Wexler, everyone.

    The guy who doesn’t know about tax base.

    The guy who wants to collaborate with the “artist” who spray paints. Just a hint, Rich: people who spray paint don’t typically contribute much to the community. They don’t pay taxes. They often don’t have jobs. They fit a young, uneducated demographic and they have no options. I’m trying to do something about that – are you?

    I hire almost exclusively young minority staff and pay them well, and you pooh-pooh my contribution to local wages and the local tax base, and invite criminals to collaborate.

    If your theater program gives back so much to the community, I challenge you to document it with your skills and get a grant and scale it up 50x and really reach a lot of people.

    Less talk. More action.

    Rich, you have failed to convince me that A and B has caused C.

    Yes. There is need in our community. Yes, it feels sad to have homeless people begging outside the coop where bread is 5.35 a loaf. But does the mean that the coop made those people homeless?


  89. Rich Says:

    I don’t remember saying anything in this discussion about spray painting or collaborating with any artist. So it looks like you are taking information form another place such as Gentrification group and inferring my opinions on here. That is pretty sneaky and unethical. Have you looked at my facebook page and saw that I support Bernie Sanders. Are you adding other assumptions about who I am and what I think? I have no issues with grafitti when you have no other power or voice, that makes me young, uneducated, unemployed, and a non-tax payer? You are trying to do something about what? I need to understand the tax base to have problem with the space on 43rd? I understand that project cares nothing about the community and is just here to make money. I don’t need a degree in economics to see that. Your arguments infers people don’t pay taxes if they deface a building? I am sure the folks who are defacing the confederate flags have many degrees and actual jobs. It is not criminal to take action when you have no legal voice. How much do you pay your staff? $30 an hour, because if its less its not a living wage. I tried to get a grant and wound up without a place to live because you can’t get a grant if your not a non profit. It costs thousands of dollars to become a non profit which I dont have. How bout you fund me on this project and I’ll show you how much good I can do? Put your money where your mouth is. I have been taking many actions such as this protest of the space. How is that not action? First of all there are no homeless people outside of the coop and if they were I am sure one of the employees would buy them a loaf of bread. The coop didn’t make them homeless people like you that have ageist, racist, belief systems help cause that. But its so good of you to play the white savior to these few employees. You argue that crime or people who commit crime dont pay taxes. Can you see how racist that statement is. I am done discussing this, which I had already stated, but instead of respecting my wish you keep posting. You then go around stalking my other pages. I would take a look at your self and stop trying to demonize me because I actually give a crap about others and would never pat myself on the back for only hiring minorities, nor would I ever be that pompous and condescending to think those things. Minorities can take of themselves, and too imply that hiring minorities is good, implies those people are poor, which is a pretty racist view. I am not going to respond any longer, live with your own guilt, I cant make it better for you.

  90. Rich Says:


  91. Anon Says:

    Remember you made your little Facebook discussion group public?

    “Rich Wexler
    4 hrs · Philadelphia, PA · Edited
    Kudos to whoever spray painted “**** Condos” on the fence of 43rd. You took my idea. If anyone knows you this is, I would like to work with them. When others take from our community, we need to take that community back. PM me if you know who this is. I do wish they had not used a curse because many kids are out there, but maybe it’s time that kids know what is going on, but just not in that form of communication.”

  92. Rich Wexler Says:

    I did make it public. And I stand by it, but I didn’t post it here. i didn’t post it here because it was more aggressive and it did not feel effective in this discussion. There are also things on there that were not explained and are taken out of context. i did have this idea but I would never do it. I wanted to post a few taped papers that expressed my view. I may have posted “Stop condos” or maybe even “Screw condos” but I didnt. Having an idea does not imply doing it. Having the idea I wanted to drive into the car in front of me for almost hitting me doesnt make me do it. If you actually read this you will see I was against the cursing. I also have to point how unethical it is to is take something from another page of mine and share it here. Should I be allowed to do that to your facebook page or groups you are in. This looks to me like a smear campaign which is what sleazy politicians do. Did I post that here? No because I felt it was non conducive to the conversation. Do I still like what happened? yes. When you take the peoples voices away they have no choice but to do things like that. People act in the same dirty ways that these developers seem to be acting. I leave that page open to its transparent,not for people to take my words out of context and use them against me in an entirely different conversation. Its pretty dirty and shameful behavior. At least I post as my name for transparency, Unless your name is Anon, you don’t even take a real stand at all. You hide behind being Anonymous. that seems pretty cowardly. What are you afraid of?

  93. Cork Says:

    “You took my idea.” “I would like to work with them.” “PM me if you know who this is.”

    That sure sounds like you wish you’d done it first to me. Whatever. Thought isn’t action, you’re right. But don’t play dumb about things that you typed.

    “I also have to point how unethical it is to is take something from another page of mine and share it here.”

    You shared it. A couple times, if I recall correctly. If you don’t want people connecting things you do on various websites, then don’t use your real name. Simple as that. It’s ridiculous to call people “sneaky and unethical,” “dirty and shameful,” and “cowardly” because they…(*big reveal here*) know how to read.

    And as a final note – I will stand behind saying that the posts you have made here thus far portray you as being an angry person with ZERO self-awareness and a brutally shallow understanding of the world. And that isn’t “adding other assumptions about who [you are] and what [you] think” – It’s reading the long series of painfully uninformed, nonsensical posts you’ve posted here, at least 4 of which have ended with “I’m not going to comment anymore now.” Maybe you’re lovely in real life and post on the internet when you’re mad. Maybe you even mean well – I don’t know, I don’t care – but your seeming obsession with tearing down other opinions and personally attacking other people for no reason at all is pretty unflattering. Which is yet another reason you should probably stop using your real name if you just *cannot* help yourself.

    I’m out! Have a great night, Rich! (honestly, please do)

  94. Rich Wexler Says:

    I never shared it on here. Peace

  95. Rich Says:

    Cork I did not post that info here. I want to work with all types of folks to come up with a solution that fits for everyone. I want us to hear each other, I did not share anything about the grAfiit on her. Please show me if I did. I am not afraid of anything I say. I speak the truth and am honest and that allows real conversations. What you think of me or what you see is your opinion and your opinion alone. You know nothing about me, and any projections you make come from your own experiences. I am not happy about how I acted on here but there is a point that I can’t have talks with folks when it’s all seems so personal. I tried to avoid that by asking for some rules about how we speak to each other, but that was just seen as controlling. I thank you for this I put and will think abo this and look at this. Peace

  96. gordon Says:


    I think I tentatively agree with your end goals, and disagree with your means.

    As I mentioned, there is a ton of “should” in your ideas, with little action.

    “Should” is easy and cheap to find. Everyone has a should.

    Very few people have a “do”. The “do” is difficult and high risk and often feels very insubstantial.

    Re: living wage. $60,000? That’s a fantasy, and way more than needed to live in dignity.

    This is timely – it is the Dollar Stroll. Rich, I suggest that you go out and count the number of people who make what you call a “living wage” of $60,000 a year or more. Maybe 20% of this community? I bet half would struggle to make $30,000 a year. If you know the “do” – the steps to make that happen – go for it. I don’t know how to make that happen. To me, someone saying the living wage should be $60,000 sounds a bit entitled. I never made that, I don’t make that now, and you don’t hear me complaining…

    I mentioned minorities because if you look around, people of color tend to be poorer than those of European ancestry people. Not always, but generally speaking. If you think that makes me racist, I don’t know what to say. Facts are neutral. Facts aren’t racist.

    The historic injustices that lead to how things are today – THAT is racism. We live in the shadow of history, and we are all trying to help out.

    If you look around, it is young people who have the spray paint. Not always. Generally speaking. That’s all.

    There are lots of people in questionable circumstances. I don’t interview each one.

    I never said I’m white. Nor am I a savior. I just like the feeling of providing jobs to people who – according to the gentrification narrative – have been passed over.

    I’m not trying to demonize you. I just think that you aren’t doing this the correct way.

  97. Rich Wexler Says:

    I have been struggling with how to co-exist in a society/communty of people who have opposing views and values. I have had a tough emotional week in terms of getting into many debates about the pros and cons of certain issues. Most have been the issues of West Philly gentrification and general politics in terms of leaders, schools, parenting, etc. The questions that came up are the following. How do we make room to hear each other even if it triggers us? How do we deal with these issues when they seem to get personal or angry on either side? How do we argue about the ethics of something while it remains legal? I am sorry to anyone that may have felt attacked or judged my me or my views. My brain works in its own ways in which I find it better to just say what I think, no matter if it could be considered offensive. When I censor myself I tend to worry about everything I say to a point that I cant express anything. I don’t say those things with the belief I am right, I say those because that’s how I understand it. I think learning environments or process are better when we allow each other room to share their opinion without being judged. I have learned more this week that I am wrong about many assumptions I had had, and now I understand more. I am guilty of this and am somewhat ashamed about how I acted in a variety of interactions. I was trying to control many conversations in a way that made me and others feel safe. But eventually just started acting in the same way that I don’t like because of my own emotional reactions. Politics are very personal and I believe might be better to not share in some ways. How do we converse about politics when behind those are usually some form of trauma that these issues may have caused? or based on the bad experiences? I know that I don’t have the answers and don’t know everything. How can we all converse with an open mind and not let our emotions and anger get the best of us? I don’t know but I do know that I do not like what I have become and how I have treated others. These issues for me come down to people’s lives. They are not general arguments to just argue. I feel some of the consequences of actions in general have a repercussions to others. In my experience I have seen some great things based on these systems, and in other ways they destroy people’s lives. For every person that may benefit from something there is usually someone that life gets worse. I want to figure out a way that we can work together on issues while compromising certain positions instead of always fighting with each other. I do believe the community and world belong to all of us, and the only true solution to these problems are ones that take all our views and find something that works for all of us. I am once again sorry for attacking anyone or assuming anything of anyone. I am truly doing my best to understand the world and myself. But its definitively not as black and white as I have seen things this week. I think this interview does a good job discussing these issues.

  98. Rich Wexler Says:


    I do apologize at the mean and judgmental remarks I made towards you. I just think we have different points and we might not be able to see the other side. I can only speak for myself here and am not saying that for you. Thanks for the conversation and I did learn things from this interaction.

    best of luck


  99. gordon Says:

    No worries at all. It takes a person of character to say what you have said.

    We all offer our best understanding of the truth, and try to see the truth in others. If you want to grab a coffee sometime, I’m sure we would have an interesting conversation and agree about some things. Email me if you would like:






  100. Rich Wexler Says:

    I guess I am not down with this. I am sure to piss people off and I pre-apoligixe.

    Latest post

  101. Rich Wexler Says:

    Does anyone else here have a problem about this space due to the fact that the zoning approved for this project is not actually legal?


  102. Anon Says:


    “Re: living wage. $60,000? That’s a fantasy, and way more than needed to live in dignity.”

    “To me, someone saying the living wage should be $60,000 sounds a bit entitled. I never made that, I don’t make that now, and you don’t hear me complaining…”

    Do you have kids? Do you know that good-quality, full-time preschool child care runs in the ballpark of $20K a year? Per kid?

    To live in dignity, families need to be able to provide for their children without fearing for their safety. $60K per person might seem entitled, but $60K per household most certainly is not. Frankly, I don’t think $120K per household is entitled, when many in our society are counting their wealth in millions and billions. And many households might only have one breadwinner, for whatever reason.

    The needs and expenses of an individual change radically when children are added to the mix.

  103. Frank Dimonci Says:

    “Frankly, I don’t think $120K per household is entitled,”

    $120K is more than 85% of the households in this country earn, and it is more than 2.5x the median household income in PA. So, yes, anyone with this amount is by definition entitled. To claim otherwise is frankly insulting.
    Another case of privileged people not acknowledging their privilege.

  104. sammonphiladelphia Says:

    Here is a study from MIT it might help put things in perspective pertaining to Living Wage
    Notice there is no savings in the living wage stat. just survival.

  105. Rich Wexler Says:

  106. Neighbor Says:

    @Rich: didn’t you just declare yesterday on your 1st Facebook protest page that you were going to stop using Facebook itself out of protest against Mark Zuckerberg making too much money or some other nonsense? Did you change your mind? Maybe chill a bit and think for a day before throwing up a bunch of posts all over here and Facebook. I’m sure your intentions are good but you’re just adding noise to the conversation with the frequent, hastily thought out attempt to organize or protest or whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

  107. Rich Says:


    I do agree that I have been reactionary and have pointed the finger at the wrong people. I was going to protest facebook by boycotting but felt after revue it was better to use facebook to fight against it. I do hear your points and have learned this by acting the way I acted. Sometimes we all have to scream about something so we can understand it more, and if we dont scream when we are upset we dont always express ourselves. I only learn in environments in which I can make mistakes, which I have definitely doen this week. Part of the issue is I dont have the actual time to have looked at all these things because I felt it was dire to share them when I did. I appreciate your input and taking time. However determining them as hastily seems to be about your perception not mine. Its how my brain processes things and is never said in haste. its said in a moment of clarity (that although might be wrong) is what I feel I have to express. In classrooms you cant learn much if you cant speak your mind, and the more mistakes you maker the more you learn. So I am a believer in never censoring my words. If I had watched what I said, I never would learned what I did. And if I alienated folks and lost them, then that is on them. What I am trying to do is take a stand against what I see as unfair practices that effect our lives. the other issue is if didnt have to work and could fight the things I feel need fighting, then I would have been able to chill and think more. I think the problem with protest is that it is hard to do because we all have to make a buck. I appreciate your feedback and I appreciate it that it was stated in a kind and compassionate manner. I do hear you on slowing down and taking time. I have an addictive personality and I think it got the best of me. I appreciate the feedback.

  108. Gordon Says:

    What an insane thread.

    I agree in principle with a more refined expression of what you want, Rich, and I found your methods really polarizing and not helpful, which is perhaps why I reacted strongly.

    Perhaps some take home lessons for posterity:

    Rich, many years ago I sat in an office in DC and learned a few lessons from people whose names you would have seen in the paper. Very progressive groups. You seem relatively young as an activist (ie leaving Facebook and trying to recruit others is a very difficult hill to climb)

    What I have learned in decades of activism:

    Rules for radicals by alinsky. Read it.

    Check your spelling.

    Never. Never. Use. All. Caps.

    Don’t post more than twice in ten days. Listen to what others are saying. There’s a reason why you are the dominant voice on this thread – you are scaring away those who agree a bit with you, and the rest don’t agree with you.

    Real social change is started by individuals but sustained by movements. Notice the difference.

    The best thing a leader of a movement can do is nurture another leader.

    Eschew obfuscation. Shorter is better.

    Complaining about “greed” is like complaining that water flows downhill. It’s gotta be corruption or insider trading or some fundamental unfairness.

    Same thing for rich and poor. The rich have been driving out poor people since time immemorial. The fact that it doesn’t happen in a very few places in the world shows that the exception proves the rules. If you want to be the exception, you must be very smart. You living here, by the way, for 25 days or 25 years doesn’t mean you are entitled to pay the same rent as when you move in. If you feel this way, you will be disappointed. Landlords take risk and ask for profits in return – similarly to nearly all economic activity.

    Pointing out how little you make it not helpful unless it is clear why that is connected to your argument. Populist arguments (someone is rich therefore I am being pooped upon by society) are non sequitur in public policy discussions.

    Pointing out how little you make often just tells me that you have no idea that many people are scraping by. You make 25k a year? Join the club. There are a lot of us.

    Rich, you approve of the green line’s business. Honestly, I invite your slow, deliberate reflections on this:

    – the most ethical way to operate a business is to not pay for “community projects” and simply provide good jobs. If people want to support the projects, they will. The projects get support directly from the wage earners, instead. The green line diverts wages from their workers to support an arts program (if what you say is correct is correct).

    And you support that? You are the warrior for the underprivileged who are having their wages put toward something without their choice?

    Sounds a bit bourgeois 🙂 maybe those workers might appreciate you arguing for them to make the choice for what they want to support, and not what gets your stamp of approval.

    By providing a higher wage, I believe I am supporting the community more than taking my workers wages and giving them to someone else.

    Anon, I don’t have kids. When I have kids, I will still argue that $60,000 is well over a “living wage” and I will laugh at anyone who has the slightest sound of entitlement discussing how rough it is to raise kids on $60k with their partner. Cry me a river 🙂 Huge swaths of philly do much much worse. have kids, but know they are expensive (and Maybe those zillionaires deserve it. Maybe they made jobs and did it the hard way.)

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