The first time I was introduced to the word "Pash-unk," I was in the backseat of a Geo Metro next to a Temple student who was trying to roll a joint with the second page of a city paper she found on the floor. We were heading from a speakeasy in West Philadelphia and on our way to Ray's Happy Birthday Bar. For all I know, it could have been a dream.
The neighborhood wasn't sketchy, at least by Philadelphia pre-2005 standards. But having only lived in D.C., Portland, and rural Virginia, anything north of Bethesda was a scene straight out of The Wiz to me.
It was gritty.
I haven't spent a lot of recreational time in Passyunk Square, but throughout my wanderings I've witnessed the change. My first local friends were raised amongst picture windows displaying statues of the Virgin Mary and silk flower displays. That's the first Philadelphia I knew as an adult. Despite the many Catholic families that still call Passyunk Square home, the neighborhood has officially tipped.
Unlike neighborhoods in Kensington and Point Breeze, Passyunk Square never really needed any help. It wasn't flashy, but it was practical and self sufficient. It was Philadelphia's hometown neighborhood where the working and upper middle classes functioned. But where there's affordable real estate, there are refugees from more expensive cities, Millennials with trust funds, and hipsters who snub Center City.
The more adventurous and car-reliant chose Northern Liberties and Fishtown, others chose Passyunk Square. And looking at the changes about to take place at Broad and Passyunk, it seems that the trifecta of gentrification - gays, Millennials, and yuppies - have finally solidified their place by glitter-bombing an inconspicuous concrete slab with steel, light displays, and a bike-share kiosk. And as a culpable part of that triad, I have to say, I like it.
Now if the PPA could keep the scofflaws off the Broad Street and Oregon Avenue medians, South Philadelphia could start looking less like a parking lot.