How Communities Organize
The Federal-Aid Highway Act provides states with funding for the construction of new highways. The Pennsylvania Department of Highways (PennDOT), Philadelphia City Planning Commission and other agencies are tasked with ways to connect Philadelphia with existing East Coast expressways.
City and state planners propose erecting a loop of expressways around Center City, with I-95 on the east, Schuylkill on the west, Vine Street on the north, and the Crosstown Expressway on the south. Property values plummet and banks cease issuing mortgages.
The Philadelphia Historic Commission begins cataloging architecturally significant buildings located near the proposed highways. They add over 800 “Queen Village” buildings to their historic register.
Queen Village, Inc., a non-profit organization, begins rehabilitating run-down buildings located between 3rd and 5th Streets. The group coins the name “Queen Village” to acknowledge Swedish immigrants who settled in the area during the 17th century.
The Federal Government claims eminent domain on residences and businesses in the Front Street corridor. Buildings located between the east side of Front Street and the Delaware River are vacated by owners and poached by vandals.
In preparation for construction of I-95, demolition of buildings on the Front Street corridor begins. Over 300 historically significant homes are leveled. Gloria Dei Church, which was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, is spared the wrecking ball.
The South Street Renaissance is formed by a group of artists who relocate to empty storefronts on South Street. They eventually join the fight against the Crosstown Expressway.
Queen Village, Inc. restores hundreds of homes. An influx of new residents is able to obtain mortgages and move into the neighborhood.
Queen Village is declared an urban renewal area defined as Lombard to Washington and 6th Street to the Delaware River. The neighborhood qualifies for funding to provide social services to low income residents. In March, Queen Village Civic Association is created by longtime neighborhood residents. Queen Village Neighbors Association (QVNA) is incorporated in November by new residents. QVNA begins providing social services through an office located at 1527 South Street.
To keep billboards away from homes, Queen Village is deemed a National Historic District. Despite this, QVNA winds up contesting 20 billboard proposals over the next decade. Historic preservation efforts continue as the 700 block of Front is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
After years of protests by neighbors, civic groups and coalitions, the Crosstown Expressway is formally removed from city plans.
QVNA opens an office at 736 S. 3rd Street, making it easier for residents to access their services.
The 600 block of Front Street is earmarked for an I-95 exit ramp. QVNA joins the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition to fight the demolition of the 18th century houses lining that block.
The two-mile stretch of I-95 near Queen Village is complete, but the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition prevents its opening. A judge enforces a consent decree declaring that exit ramps must be installed by the Delaware River, sparing the 600 block of S. Front Street.
Through the consent decree, PennDOT is forced to install sound barriers to dampen traffic noise along Front Street. Also, a non-profit called the Interstate Land Management Corporation (ILMC) is created to maintain the new Front Street public spaces.
QVNA begins working with the newly formed South Street Headhouse District to support local businesses.
QVNA joins the Coalition of Philadelphia Neighborhood Associations to protest the legalization of riverboat casinos. Within two years, riverboat gambling is defeated.
QVNA leaders note that the neighborhood is gentrifying and will probably lose the social services funding that pays for office operations. They open a community parking lot at Front and Christian to raise revenue.
Urban renewal efforts are determined to be successful, and QVNA officially loses social services funding. QVNA cuts costs by reducing staff and relocating to the Weccacoe Playground Building. QVNA joins other communities in South Philadelphia to contest a proposal to erect a casino in Pennsport at Columbus and Reed Streets. They form the Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) to advocate for a civic vision for the Central Delaware Riverfront.
Queen Village becomes Philadelphia’s first Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, establishing guidelines for new construction that preserve the character of the neighborhood. QVNA and other civics form the Crosstown Coalition to force the city to give neighbors a voice in helping revise the Zoning Code. The group later tackles other citywide issues, including property tax assessments, zoning and land use, affordable housing, parking, transportation and public education.
QVNA joins other civics to support the Friends of the South Street Police Mini-Station, securing resources and funding for a dedicated South Street police detail.