It looks like a street that most people would rather drive by than walk down. With an empty lot filled with beer bottles and an assortment of trash on one side and slowly crumbling row homes on the other, Fifth and Thompson Street does not look like residential bliss, although it may seem like a lost cause there is a movement to renovate the area. A group of hopeful young residents believes it will happen block by block.
Kathryn Sullivan, 23, lives on Thompson in a second-floor apartment. Ludlow was not necessarily her first choice, but the rental price was more appealing to her than other areas of the city. Its reasonable pricing is most likely what draws the under-30 crowd.
“It’s a really young part of the area,” said Sullivan. “On this particular side of Girard I do see a lot of people our age living around here because it’s more affordable.”
Over the past year she said she has observed an increase in the number of residents on the block, especially this past fall. There is an entire house of young people on living on the corner.
The demographics of Ludlow have been changing. It has become a mix of old and new as the neighborhood enters a phase of gentrification. Sullivan said she has realized that although there has been a shift in population she needs to be one her guard. It was a little over a year ago that Sabina Rose was raped and murdered while riding her bike at night. The incident happened on the next block over from Sullivan.
“Safety is an issue for me,” Sullivan admitted.
She does not ride her bike home from work anymore and asks some of her fellow workers to drive her home after finishing a night shift at a local restaurant.
After her own apartment was broken into Sullivan has her neighbors to watch out for her.
“There’s a family that lives across the way and Louis gave us his phone number and said if there’s anything shady going on to give him call,” said Sullivan, “and he’ll protect us.”
It is this sense of community on the street that Brett Snell, 22, appreciates most. He can easily chat with neighbors while sitting on his stoop or in the midst of shoveling out after a snowstorm.
“We were able to just talk while we were digging out our cars from the snow,” said Snell.
As a male resident on Thompson, Snell feels differently about security.
“It’s different for a guy because I don’t really get scared around here.”
He warned that you should use common sense and not walk around by yourself. It makes you an easy target for trouble.
Sullivan and Snell have noticed the amount of construction happening on their block over the past two years.
“There’s a house next door that had been demolished and worked on for the past year,” said Snell.
He also mentioned that a new apartment complex had been built down the street but was not sure if anyone had moved in yet.
The amount of new housing will bring in new residents to the community. Sullivan said she hopes that more people will realize how dynamic the nightlife in the neighborhood is. While in college she and her friends would normally skip the area as a weekend destination and head to more well-known bars in Philadelphia.
“It’s a really fun area and I’m really glad I lived here.”
While the area has actively been trying to promote the arts and attract a younger crowd to its bars and stores, there are other drawbacks to living there. One of the issues is that there is no local grocery store. Another of the street’s residents, Noah Dickinson, noted that he gets most of his food from the local corner stores.
“I just go over to the corner store to get meat and sandwiches,” Dickinson said with a shrug. “Otherwise, I have to drive to the Fresh Grocer on Broad Street.”
A Pathmark was supposed to open at the end of 2010, but the only clue there was going to be a store on Girard is the company’s name on an abandoned building.
“We have to go to the Super Fresh in South Philly,” said Snell. “I was really excited for it to open because it was right down the street, but it never did.”
The changes in Ludlow are likely to be gradual. For the residents of Fifth and Thompson streets, they hope that instead of being seen as one of Philadelphia’s rundown sections, Ludlow will become a hub for the arts.
“It’s taking its time,” said Sullivan. “It’ll be interesting to see where this place is in 10 years, but it has potential to see what will happen.”
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