Turning the corner onto the 3500 block of North Carlisle Street, which runs directly behind the new Temple University Medical School building, one is met with noisy, powerful gusts of wind. “It’s a wind tunnel effect,” said Paul Washington of 3504 N. Carlisle St.
This is one of the many effects that the building, completed in May, has had this winter on the 35oo block of Carlisle Street. Faced with considerable community opposition since its construction, the ultra-modern, 11-story structure, which opened last May, looms high above the row homes of the neighborhood, casting permanent shadows onto once-sunlit streets and disrupting the lives of those in the community, residents complained/
Charles White, of 3536 N. Carlisle St., has lived on the block for over 10 years and has watched his environment change drastically. “You used to be able to see Broad Street from here,” he said. “Now you can’t.”
The new building hasn’t just changed the view from White’s front steps, but it affects his everyday life as well. “My house is cold,” White said, citing the shade cast by the massive new building as the reason. He estimates that his heating bill has risen about $18-$20 per month since past winters. “I have to turn up my heat, burn more gas,” White said.
Joan Butler, a longtime resident of 3526 N. Carlisle St., agreed. “The sun used to come through my window at eight, nine in the morning,” Butler said. “Now, you hardly see it at all. Not until about 1 p.m., and only for a little bit.” Butler is forced to put sheets over her doors and windows, attempting to keep the cold outside, and when she removes the sheets, the draft is palpable.
The shade has hit Butler on a much more personal level than others. For 27 of the 30 years she’s lived in her house, Butler had a garden in the backyard in which she grew peppers, beans, lettuce and even potatoes. In addition to cooking with her fresh fruit and vegetables, she enjoyed giving them to needy people at church or on the street. Now, though, her backyard receives no light at all, even at the height of summer, and she has had to give up gardening, her favorite hobby, altogether. “It hurts me to my heart that I can’t do that anymore,” Butler said tearfully. “It’s like stabbing me in the heart.”
Many of the negative effects of the new building on the neighborhood were expected. Butler said that during construction, she attended weekly meetings held by Temple at local churches and community centers in which neighbors voiced their concerns about the effects such a large, looming building would have on their neighborhood. Butler thinks that Temple let these residents down considerably. “They promised a lot, but in the end they didn’t do anything,” said Butler. “It was very disappointing.”
Butler said she was given an air conditioner and air purifier by Temple to help with the dusty conditions during
construction, but she mentioned that neither does any help now in the cold of the winter.
The shade and cold aren’t the only problems residents face with the new building. According to White, the building has brought more traffic through the neighborhood. “The parking situation is bad around here,” he said, adding that Temple maintenance crews plowed snow off of the sidewalk but right into the street.
These issues aren’t just confined to one block, but extend to 15th Street, which runs behind Carlisle. Anthony McCall of 3521 N. 15th St. echoed concerns about parking and pointed out that daytime commuters take up many of the parking spaces on the block. He also said that Philadelphia Parking Authority officials are more present than ever, writing tickets even for residents. “Before, they used to check cars like every four or five hours,” he said. “Now, they check every hour or two.”
For others on the block, the problem isn’t so much the shade cast by the building as much as it is the lights that shine inside the building day and night. “The lights keep us up at night,” says Zaynah Davis of 3518 N. 15th St. “They shine through our bedroom. It’s never really dark in my house.”
For some, though, the presence of lights is a good thing. “They make the neighborhood safer,” said Caren Williams of 3523 N. 15th St. Even White agreed that the lights help with safety.
Williams, in fact, has no issues with the new building at all. “I think it’s the best thing they could have done for the
neighborhood,” she said.
Whether residents agree with Williams, the changes in the neighborhood are undeniable. White pointed out the “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs on his block and said that many left the neighborhood even before the building was finished.
One thing residents could agree on is that the damage, however serious, has been done. “The building is up. There’s nothing they can do now,” Butler said, exhibiting more pain than bitterness. “I love Temple. I have relatives who work there. But they could have been more considerate.”
For now, all she can do is wrestle with her thermostat and eat the frozen vegetables given to her by Meals on Wheels, for which she says she is grateful. She can’t help but long for the mornings spent in the sun in her garden, though, before the new building cast a shadow over her home and her life.
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