I ventured east of Broad Street this week, and saw the future. Not all Philadelphia hipster neighborhoods are created equally.
Between the Delaware River and 6th Street with Girard Avenue to the north and Callowhill Street to the south, the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philly has transformed from factory mills to a post-college Mecca in last few decades. I knew Northern Libs existed and that it was supposed to be a fun neighborhood, but for some reason, my 23 year old self had not been to the city’s holy land of my demographic since moving to the city.
Northern Liberties is what I hope Brewerytown, the neighborhood parallel to the west will become in the next few years. Northwest Fairmount already has the North Star Bar and just a block up is Mugshots Brewerytown. Apartments are reasonable and I can see the college students and graduates flocking now. However, Northern Liberties has the luxury of the Market Frankford Line to provide convenient subway transportation, while Brewerytown and Northwest Fairmount rely on buses, a 20 minute walk to Broad Street, or my personal favorite the Route 15 replica trolley on Girard Avenue. I’ve read that the city has taken note of Northern Liberties’ success and has Brewerytown on their Q for upcoming city plans.
What I think is most unique about Northern Liberties is the new construction and open space. The Piazza at Schmidt’s is a huge open square with apartments, shops, and restaurants spilling out into a common area, just like Rome’s open squares. Although not found in Rome’s piazzas is a large TV screen projecting the Phillies’ game…But I’m sure Italy would entertain the idea of broadcasting soccer matches on to the ancient Roman walls…
While the new construction is what sets Northern Liberties apart, it still makes use of the old Philadelphia row homes. I met up with a friend this past Wednesday at Cantina Dos Segundos on 2nd Street – $4 margaritas, pork and lamb tacos, AND exposed brick walls. Package that up with a bow, and call it a gift from the ethnic restaurant gods. I don’t need much more in life than ambiance and Mexican food.
And as if I already wasn’t sold on Northern Liberties based on the restaurants and the Italian-esque layout, I also enjoyed their availability of good fitness classes. That’s right; I said it, fitness: as in exercise or physical activity, something slightly foreign to my post-college life, as my yoga mat has only seen the corner of my bedroom for the past 8 months. But, I finally used that Living Social coupon for a class at Lithe Method’s Northern Liberties studio this week…it might just be about to expire on April 20th…Lithe has four locations throughout the city and Main Line and the fact that one is in Northern Libs just goes to show that it’s a hood with promise. My quads are still recovering from lunges called “courtesies” and releves called “stilettos,” so I would definitely go back for more classes. But I may need to save up some money because the classes are a steep $20 each without coupons. I’ll rework my budget while sipping a $4 margarita.
So maybe within the next few years west Girard Avenue will take a cue from the east and we’ll see more fun eateries, shops and dare I say exercise studios. I’m an optimistic fan who will cheer the development on.