Universities are increasingly faced with central city decline; anchored by their assets—primarily real estate—and, sometimes, institutional missions, many have felt threatened by neighborhood deterioration. In response, several universities have intervened in neighborhood decline over the last two decades, initiating revitalization and physical improvement strategies. Since 1996, the University of Pennsylvania has been a leader in this work, investing in the West Philadelphia Initiatives (WPI) to address safety, vacancy, and disinvestment concerns. This study utilizes Census data to evaluate changes in the character of University City between 1990 and 2010. Analysis suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the neighborhood improved but did not gentrify. The story, however, does not end there. While the neighborhood did not gentrify as a whole, the portion served by the Penn-sponsored public K-8 school experienced drastic change. As the blocks inside the school’s catchment grew wealthier, more homogeneous, and more educated, these upward trends masked continued socioeconomic decline in the remainder of the neighborhood.
- anchor institution
- neighborhood change
- university-led revitalization
- urban revitalization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Urban Studies