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  • Michala Costello

Fishtown Feels

I so thoroughly enjoyed this article by Peter Lane Taylor for Forbes about the rapid resurgence of Fishtown — he gets it.

I sold my first home in Fishtown over eight years ago to a young professional woman. I really didn’t see what my client saw in the area at the time, except that it was close to the El and her commute into the city was 9 mins. Since then, I’ve been showing and selling more and more in this neighborhood (and in East Kensington), and it really does take time spent outside, on the streets, to understand and feel the progress. Sometimes that means walking down “up-and-coming” blocks in my heels to setup an Open House sign. Fishtown has always been a working class neighborhood, and that same hard-working drive is fueling this boom. It’s not hype, it’s real, lasting growth and progress.

Home values have tripled over the last decade — homes go quick and oftentimes end up in bidding wars. New York City developers have gotten wind of the opportunities, and according to Taylor, “The current sale to list ratio is a scorching 98.8%, going toe to toe with Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and Washington, D.C.” Just like Williamsburg, Fishtown has that “disconnected connectedness” that urban dwellers want.

It started with live music. Then came one savvy developer, some great food and coffee, and trendy millennials flocked. This demographic, the urban millennial (or what Taylor calls Fishtown’s “new immigrants”), has different values and different priorities when searching for a home and a neighborhood. Through spending time here, after seeing resident’s backyards, people watching in coffee shops, and yes stepping over some trash, now I get it too.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see beyond the skyrocketing property values and understand that Fishtown operates independently of the city (but offers a 9-minute commute and skyline views).

In Taylor’s words, Fishtown is “magnetizing a new generation of Millennials, Baby Boomers, and young professionals who are summarily rejecting suburbia, car culture, and food deserts in favor of independently-owned retailers, farm-to-table restaurants, and the new self-supporting micro-economy to move back downtown again”

Millennials rule the streets all week with bikes, backpacks and coffee cups, and suburban folk come in on the weekend to wait in line for the award-winning restaurants and shop the boutiques. And guess what. There’s no Starbucks. No Chipotle. Why? Because the neighborhood has had a say in this rapid development, and the neighborhood associations are active and thriving (NKCDC thank you for all you do). When seeking permits to open their 4-room hotel, Mulherin’s knocked on doors asking for the opinions of their neighbors.

“What’s instructive about Fishtown’s resurgence isn’t just what it did. It’s what it didn’t do. Large-scale developments and by-right zoning changes pushed by outside real estate speculators have been universally shot down. National retailers have been hosed out. The democracy of re-development has often been raucous, table-banging, and sometimes physical. But no one person’s vision about what was right for the neighborhood ever unilaterally prevailed.”

Other burgeoning neighborhoods should sit up and take note!

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