In West Philadelphia the Belmont neighborhood is defined by Lancaster Ave to the south, 40th St to the east, Belmont Ave to the west and the Septa tracks to the north. These four borders give definition to a place and a neighborhood. Depending on who you ask, this area could be considered part of Mantua, and is part of the recently (January 2014) announced Promise Zone, a new government program trying to improve neighborhoods by fast tracking applications for federal grants and loans. As someone who has never lived in or really spent time in Belmont, I can only judge how badly it needs improvement based on articles (“City officials and neighborhood leaders say the area is poor and crime-ridden” from the Philadelphia Inquirer) and maps of various statistics (income, education, long term residents, transit usage shown below).
What are alternative ways to represent the neighborhood? (A specific example could be adapting the ‘popsicle index’ mentioned yesterday into the ‘apple index’ as a way of assessing access to healthy foods.) Programs like StoryCorps offer a spoken narrative (often of life events and not specifically places), coming to communities to interview two or three individuals. How would you rate a neighborhood, or better yet your neighborhood? What do you value, and what do your surroundings have to offer? It is a sensitive question as its wording can easily become leading. But the idea of many people coming forward with their vision of what a good neighborhood is and how their neighborhood stacks up could offer a better idea of what exactly needs ‘improving’ in any particular place.