The principal at John F. Reynolds Public School near Ridge Avenue see the transient nature of her students and their families as a significant problem for the children’s education.“We’ll have kids in September, they’ll leave in December, and then they’ll be back in June,” says Principal Cheryl Hackett.
It’s obvious that housing isn’t great along Ridge Avenue, especially close to Broad Street with vacant lots and abandoned buildings lining the street. While the outside appearance makes the current conditions more than apparent, it also seems to affect other areas of the community as well.
“Just from my observation thus far, a lot of the housing is rental units and not units for home ownership which creates a problem,” said Rev. Wayne Weathers, the pastor at Miller Memorial Baptist Church. “What I’ve witnessed is that if you don’t have home ownership, the people don’t feel that they have an investment into the community because it’s a transient community. When you put home ownership into the community, people are going to invest into it because this is their home, this is their community.”
Along the blocks surrounding Ridge Avenue, new rental units have already been built or are under construction. The Sharswood Townhomes line Jefferson Street from 21st treet to 23rd streets to provide the community with attractive and affordable housing. While the area looks better and homes are being provided, there is still one main issue that isn’t getting the attention it should: the transition rate. While not every company is building homes for ownership, there are still some organizations like Project Housing Opportunities, Medical Care and Education (H.O.M.E.) that strives to give permanent housing to residents. There are people in the area who are striving to do so in their own way as well.
“There are individuals who have been moving into the area and rehabbing homes,” said Warren McMichael, the president of the Brewerytown/Sharswood Community Civic Association. “What I’ve been doing, I’ve been rehabbing places… I do about one every two years. I’m just a small developer.”
Things aren’t just being done to try to bring new residents to the area, but there are also efforts being made to help those residents already living there.
“We’ve been trying to get government programs in for the residents that have moderate income so that they can get grants to improve their housing,” said McMichael, “If their income is below a certain level, they can have a basic opportunity grant that will enable them to get new roofs, new windows, new plumbing or heating systems and things like that. If the income is low enough, they don’t have to pay for it.”
Among the many different types of housing that are located surrounding Ridge Avenue, one that cannot be missed is the Blumberg Apartments provided by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The apartment complex is comprised of two high-rise buildings that give homes to many low-income families. While the buildings provide homes for many residents that need it, not everyone feels that it is the best place for them to be.
“Blumberg is the biggest thing in this area and they were remodeled a few years ago. I think they put $40 million into them, “ McMichael said. “In my personal opinion, they shouldn’t have done that. I think they should have done away with the project and built different types of housing. There are a lot of problems and I don’t think it’s a good place to raise children. When you put a lot of low-income people in one place, it’s not a good situation. They also need a lot of support services that I don’t think they’re getting. They need a lot of help and it’s just not being provided.”
The Philadelphia Housing Authority was unavailable for comment.
While not everything concerning housing in the area is up to decent standards, there is still hope for the neighborhood to become the thriving the area that it once used to be. New people are moving into the area and bringing something different that hasn’t been there before.
“I’d say on my block, about 90 percent of my neighbors have college degrees, which is kind of unusual for this neighborhood. But we need people like that in neighborhood, who will help build up the neighborhood,” said McMichael, “If you have an education and your income is greater, you’re able to do more things with that income and they have a greater interest because of the knowledge they have to improve a community.”
Although not every section of Ridge Avenue is receiving the attention it deserves, driving around the community revealed that things are looking up in its other areas – and the people in the community are noticing.
“There are a lot of homes that they’re building in the area that are nice,” said Principal Hackett, “At some point there will be a turnover with what’s going on, but it’s not here at the moment.”
With residents like McMichael doing what they can to help the community, Ridge Avenue’s neighborhood seems to be at a slow, but steady pace to getting back to what it used to be.
“I think it’s turned around now,” McMichael said. “It’s not going south, but the community is starting to come up again.”