Tag Archives: Fresh Prince

Where am I? University City or West Philadelphia

17 Dec

Let me just say it, so we can get it out of the way.  “West Philadelphia born and raised!”


When I originally visited here, and later decided to move, many of the people I spoke to all over the U.S. sang to me the Fresh Prince intro.  It’s comical, but the current events and happenings here are a bit beyond the scope of Will Smith’s 1990s.

It’s been said that West Philadelphia was once the first suburb of Philly and housed some of the wealthiest folks in the U.S.  By the looks of the neighborhood, you can bet on it.  Three to four story houses boasting old school decadence and massive space for single families.  No yards though….where do we keep the carriage?  As I moved into this historic neighborhood a disagreement began to emerge.

First piece of moving advice: know what’s going on in your neighborhood.

University City v. West Philadelphia

The University City website claims the district stretches all the way to 52nd street. (If you need a little geographical help, here’s their map).  What’s interesting is that a lot of the locals, those who live here and the visiting students, usually offer up that “University City” (increasingly synonymous to “White West Philadelphia”) effectively reaches just to 50th street at its most expansive, and not even that far to the northern and southern edges of the quadrant.  So whats 2 blocks?  The debate is around the ever encroaching line of University City, slowly sipping up a block here and there like overpriced espresso.  My best guess education and my neurotic boyfriend’s Sociology background tells me it has something to do with property values and socioeconomics.  Small stickers abound saying “University City is a marketing scheme”. And while there are other stickers that go on those ones debating land ownership, you can believe it at face value.  The price of a “University City” 2 bedroom is almost always a couple hundred more than a 2 bedroom “West Philadelphia” apartment.  And inside many of the same blocks the terms are interchangeable. The difference is that if you renovate a place and want to charge more money for it, you label it University City, which calls to the college cast and wealthier circles, which we can all at this point admit still tend to be white. Without scolding connotation, that’s a marketing scheme. Don’t get it twisted. “University City” wants you, young pale ones. But “University City” is opportunistic dress-up for an old player in the young crowd’s dance club. You’re still going home with West Phil.

When you are shopping around for apartments, houses, etc ask the locals whats been going on. Drop in on your local bookshop or strike up a conversation with a long time bar tender.  Than ask the person showing you the place how well they know the neighbors.