The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the realtors and land speculators would like us to begin calling this dingy industrial area on the edge of Center City "The Loft District". Or even worse: "Trestle Town" after the abandoned railroad viaduct which snakes between the largely vacant factories and abuts the building where I write these posts. Art industry laborers have been drawn here by the vacuum of vanished industry for a long time - some toiling in this particular building (a former Reading Railroad freight transfer station) for more than twenty years. I stubornly describe our location as "north of China Town" - the lively, loud and pungent neighborhood to the south. The realtors want this place to be the next "Northern Liberties" or to mirror the skyrocketing success of my neighborhood: "The Art Museum Area", formerly lowly Fairmount. The new titles are attempts to attract the yuppies who have so far been hesitant to colonize these blocks.
Instead, we've recently welcomed an unexpected demographic: Asian and (mostly) Mexican immigrants - and the take out joints, taquerias and tiny grocery stores which serve them. It's really livened things up around here.
Each night after the restaurants have closed, along this "blighted" stretch of Spring Garden, the phone poles and the iron railings sprouting from cracked white marble steps leading up to the sagging - but now fully occupied - row houses, are wrapped and garlanded with the tiny bicycles they peddle to service industry jobs in town. Now in the late hours young men come down from their shabby apartments into the relative cool of the street; clustering in doorways and on the steps; drinking canned beer and smoking cigarettes; and kicking soccer balls along the very recently empty sidewalks. Their dark eyes follow me as I drive by in my shiny black car - top down - to the now desirable zipcode of my own not long ago "blighted" neighborhood, really not all that far away to the west.