One program in Germantown is designed to help revitalize the neighborhood by investing locally.
by David Compa
Cities compete for people. Philadelphia is no different. According to researchers at The Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia, approximately 48 percent of city residents, across the country, live in “middle neighborhoods,” which are described as stable, working-class communities that generally lack outside investment, especially when compared with areas such as Center City, Graduate Hospital or Northern Liberties. Middle neighborhoods are often saddled with blight, but have extraordinary potential for growth, when given the proper tools. They typically are affordable, safe, and functional. In Philadelphia’s middle neighborhoods, schools are good, but not good enough, crime is relatively low, and housing is stable, but danger of decline lingers. Historically, as more jobs moved to the suburbs, the middle class shrunk, housing stock became older and many properties deteriorated and went vacant. Attention to the needs of our middle neighborhoods was, and is, still lacking. Middle neighborhoods in Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District include parts of Mount Airy, Germantown, West Oak Lane, Roxborough, and Wynnefield. These are incredibly viable and valuable neighborhoods in our city. They provide a considerable portion of our city’s property tax revenue, yet we often do not give them the credit, attention, and support they deserve. Let’s be clear, Philadelphians cannot take our city to the next level by just improving Center City and the “hot” neighborhoods surrounding Center City. We must also lift up the middle neighborhoods and those that have not fully shared in the benefits of our city’s revitalization. One example of a program that encourages private investment in middle neighborhoods is JumpStart Germantown. Jumpstart trains, mentors, networks, and lends money to local residents who want to improve their own community. By stressing scattered site rehabilitation and a healthy mix of affordable and market rate housing, Jumpstart can play a crucial role in middle neighborhood revitalization. First devised, and successfully tested, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, JumpStart helps local individuals build wealth locally, thereby keeping