As I took the train into downtown Philadelphia, the conductor called out, “UniVERSity CiTY” with a 1920s attitude. The view outside the train window brought me fond and hard memories of my industrial and post-industrial homes.
University City. Sounds so full of hope and promise. The golden city at the heart of the American dream. Yet something deceptive seemed afoot. That moment when you realize the American dream is not available to everyone. When you realize the Emerald city is just a myth. When it feels like just another lie.
I later learned the area was named University City at the urging of the local institutions of higher education. It was a dangerous neighborhood. And as these institutions grew, they needed to clean up the neighborhood.
So they named a district. They subsidized businesses moving in. They put university patrols on the corners at night. They cleaned up the neighborhood. And intentionally gentrified it. The area is nicer now. Safer. It’s a good thing for those there now. And a bad thing for those before.
The American dream. University City.