On the Edge

MEDIA

From Temple to Trump: Philly’s middle neighborhoods go to Washington

May 23, 2017 | billypenn.com | PDF

by Mark Dent

In early February, Temple University hosted a small gathering where urban development experts Ira Goldstein and Paul Brophy told politicians about Philadelphia’s middle neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are where about 45 percent of our population lives, mostly-stable areas at risk because they’re not getting privately developed like Center City and not so blighted that they receive government funding.

Months later, middle neighborhoods have gone national, slowly becoming a conversation topic in Washington, D.C. The issue of middle neighborhoods has reached the Office of Housing and Urban Development; Philly Congressman Dwight Evans hosted a Congressional briefing on them last week. The concept has even crossed the desk of President Donald Trump.

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Press Release: “Congressman Evans Raises Dialogue on Middle Neighborhoods in Congress”

May 19, 2017 | Media Center, Congressman Dwight Evans

By Becca Brukman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02) hosted a congressional briefing in D.C. to bring together a group of stakeholders who are working on the city, state and federal level to put policies in place that help strengthen our Middle Neighborhoods.

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Some Philadelphia Neighborhoods Are Walking a Line Between Boom and Bust

May 15, 2017 | NextCity.org | PDF

by Sandy Smith

Meet Diane Richardson, achiever of the American dream.

A Penn State graduate and the owner of a business that helps homeless veterans, Richardson followed a common trajectory for a child of the civil rights-era black middle class: She grew up in working-class neighborhoods alongside mostly black neighbors, and attended college, which was followed by a few years of working and saving while living with her parents. Then marriage and the search for a home of her own.

Like her parents, she migrated to places where she believed she could find a better life. By the time Richardson finished college in the 1960s, her parents had followed a familiar path of upward mobility from North Philadelphia to the city’s West Oak Lane section, a neighborhood that had been mostly white and Jewish, but was then filling with middle-class black homeowners.

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What are St. Louis’ ‘middle neighborhoods’ and how can they be stopped from falling into distress?

April 27, 2017 | St. Louis Public Radio | PDF

by Kelly Moffitt

There are neighborhoods in St. Louis that are thriving and those that are very much struggling, but what about neighborhoods that fall somewhere in the middle? On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the idea of “middle neighborhoods,” which comes from a recent research study called “On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods,” published by American Assembly.

“When we’re talking about a middle neighborhood, we’re talking about areas that historically in the cities housed the middle class and solid working class,” said Alan Mallach, a senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress and contributor to ‘On the Edge.’ “These were areas that had a lot of homeownership and families. Those areas are losing ground.”

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The death and life of Philadelphia’s ‘middle neighborhoods’

March 17, 2017 | Philly.com | PDF

by Inga Saffron

They’re not among the star neighborhoods that can boast slick new townhouses and trendy bars serving craft beer. But they’re not blighted messes, either, forever struggling with drugs and shootings. These places are poised somewhere between success and failure. And they have a catchy name: middle neighborhoods.

Tacony is a classic Philadelphia middle neighborhood. Perhaps best known for its namesake bridge spanning the Delaware, it is too far outside the orbit of Center City to feel the warmth of its white-hot revival. But having come through deindustrialization and the foreclosure crisis with relatively modest damage, Tacony’s strength is that it remains an intact, working-class neighborhood where you can buy a decent house for under $100,000 and walk to schools, shops, and transit. If some of those houses and stores could use a little TLC, well, they’re working on it.

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Philly’s forgotten middle: Places like West Oak Lane, Tacony endangered

March 9, 2017 | billypenn.com | PDF

by Mark Dent

Two weeks ago at Temple, researcher Paul Brophy gave a discussion about Philadelphia’s seemingly stable but at-risk middle neighborhoods and noted our city had no plan for them. He talked about the need for advocates to step up, directly calling out local politicians to do something about it.

It appears City Council has taken the message to heart. Ninth District Councilwoman Cherelle Parker plans to introduce a resolution calling for a hearing on middle neighborhoods this morning. The resolution stresses the need to “explore intergovernmental policy solutions to stabilize and support” the neighborhoods.

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Philly ‘middle neighborhoods’ like Tacony, Mayfair to get City Council hearing

March 9, 2017 | BillPenn.com | PDF

by Mark Dent

Two weeks ago at Temple, researcher Paul Brophy gave a discussion about Philadelphia’s seemingly stable but at-risk middle neighborhoods and noted our city had no plan for them. He talked about the need for advocates to step up, directly calling out local politicians to do something about it.

It appears City Council has taken the message to heart. Ninth District Councilwoman Cherelle Parker plans to introduce a resolution calling for a hearing on middle neighborhoods this morning. The resolution stresses the need to “explore intergovernmental policy solutions to stabilize and support” the neighborhoods.

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Infrequently Asked Questions: What is a middle neighborhood?

February 22, 2017 | phillyvoice.com | PDF

by Brandon Baker

In cities, visions of America’s upper crust and most distressed both are easy to conjure up. Try to envision cities’ middleneighborhoods of today, though, and the task is a bit more difficult.

What is a middle neighborhood?

Paul Brophy, a Philly-native neighborhood improvement expert, recently took up the endeavor of finding out, editing the book, On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods, a deep look at neighborhoods where you’ll commonly find healthcare workers, a wide range of races and ethnicities, and property values that are neither here nor there. Brophy also took to Temple University on Tuesday to discuss the subject with City Council members and the public.

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America’s Forgotten ‘Middle Neighborhoods’

January 5, 2017 | governing.com | PDF

by Paul C. Brophy & Ira Goldstein

An estimated 46 percent of the nation’s urban population lives in a category of neighborhoods that local governments pay little attention to: America’s “middle neighborhoods.” These neighborhoods are generally affordable and attractive, and they offer a reasonable quality of life, but many of them are in danger of decline.

Middle neighborhoods typically receive little or no attention from mayors, city managers and local housing officials, in part because they are not distressed enough to qualify for federal Community Development Block Grant funds and because financially stressed local governments seldom allocate local tax dollars to neighborhood-improvement strategies. Yet, these neighborhoods, which provide a substantial portion of local property-tax revenues, can easily tip into decline unless steps are taken to improve the investment psychology for them.

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New Volume Explores ‘Middle Neighborhoods’ and their Decline in Cities Across America

New York, New York (December 9, 2016) – The American Assembly’s new book aims to stimulate a national dialogue about middle neighborhoods. Leading scholars and practitioners present new evidence indicating that a category of neighborhoods exists in many cities and surrounding areas that planners and policymakers have neglected. These areas surrounding many cities and suburbs are described as “on-the-edge” between growth and decline.

“Surprisingly, a careful look at a half-dozen cities indicates that one-third to over half of the population of these cities resides in middle neighborhoods,” explains Brophy. “Yet, planners and urban policymakers typically have no strategies to sustain or improve middle neighborhoods. In fact, federal programs—which are income restricted— are of little or no value in these working class neighborhoods.”

The shrinking middle class as well as growing income segregation and inequality in the United States is the backdrop for this publication. The authors in this volume believe that increasing understanding of middle neighborhoods will enhance the discussions underway nationally and locally about improving distressed neighborhoods or coping with gentrification.

“No Mayor wants his or her city to become home to only the poor or only the rich,” said Henry S. Webber, professor of practice at Washington University and an author in this volume. “They all want their cities to be home to a diverse population, including a large number of middle class residents. The declining number of middle neighborhoods threatens the viability of this goal.”

On the Edge authors present compelling data, provide ideas for action, and advocate for new and innovative community, housing, and education policies to better support on-the-edge neighborhoods.

Contact Michelle Olson, Mission Point Inc., 773-820-2565.


For more information:

  • Visit www.middleneighborhoods.org to learn more about the book, see excerpts, reviews, and learn about upcoming events.
  • The book is now available for purchase through Amazon.

About the American Assembly
The American Assembly is a public policy institute founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower at Columbia University. For over 60 years, The Assembly has fostered non-partisan public-policy discussions through convening, research, and publication. On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods is published and supported by The American Assembly through its Legacy Cities Initiative. Find out more at www.americanassembly.org.