Looking out any Main Campus building window, the surrounding local community appears to be intact. Yet what is not visible to the naked eye is how drastically these adjacent neighborhoods have evolved in the 125-plus years since Temple’s founding.
Last year, The Temple News staff produced a 22-minute documentary, which chronicled changes to Main Campus’ surrounding community in recent years. “The Wild West of Broad” discussed the changing face of neighborhoods west of Broad Street due to Temple’s ever-expanding presence and the increasing number of students living in off-campus housing.
Where “The Wild West of Broad” succeeded in gaining the perspectives of local residents, block captains, members of Habitat of Humanity and Tom Anderson, the retired vice president of community affairs, it fell short in discussing the trans-generational effects of such expansion.
For its third successive documentary, TTN turned an eye to its students who come from these neighborhoods. “Generation TempleTown,” to air on the publication’s website today, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of Temple’s expansion in regards to the city’s youth.
“The focus [of “Generation TempleTown”]is to basically talk to the youth of the community,” Saba Aregai, assistant multimedia editor and producer of the documentary, said. “I feel like in last year’s documentary, we didn’t really get the viewpoint of the generation that’s actually growing up in the [expansion].”
“We hear a lot as far as the news and the coverage about homeowners and developers,” she added, referring to TTN and local newspapers’ coverage of City Council President Darrell Clarke’s proposed North Central Neighborhood Improvement District bill. “You don’t really hear about the people who actually have to live through the changes. I just wanted to give them the opportunity to give their perspective because they can be the next generation to live here or they can just be the generation that moves out of North Philly.”
The resolution, introduced to City Council on Oct. 6, 2011, would increase cleanliness and safety in the area, but at a price to local homeowners through an assessment fee.
But the NCNID isn’t entirely to blame for a dissatisfied and disgruntled community. In [“Neighbor relations a multi-level effort,” p. 1], TTN reports that the number of students has reportedly tripled since 2002, and now approximately 11,500 students live in university-owned housing or near Main Campus. In the last decade, North Philadelphia residents have dealt with Temple students’ transient habitation of their blocks, a phenomenon that was nonexistent during the university’s commuter days.
“These college students that I spoke to, they grew up in North Philly and they saw the changes happen,” Aregai said.
Aregai spoke to current Temple students who were raised in surrounding communities during the university’s period of expansion, and are now caught in a strife between their school and their homes.
These students chose to take advantage of the benefits of living near a major university, and were raised with a strong desire to attend college. One interviewee of the documentary, Dannie Phantom, said the alternative options were not for him.
“I made the conscious decision not to fall into that path at a young age,” he said. “You get mistreated, and that’s why you become a person that do bad, because you get mistreated.”
Several interviewees said that while the surrounding neighborhoods have negative aspects – namely drugs and violence – these were not always issues. In fact, North Philadelphia was once a much livelier community with thriving businesses. But after decades of Temple expansion and racial tensions, the area is more rife with crime.
Yet as the university continues to widen its scope and breadth in North Philly, residents and their youth are adamant about staying put, despite buy-out offers.
Senior communications major and North Philly native Malcolm Kenyatta summed it up by saying, “Temple’s here to stay, and the community is here to stay.”
After spending Fall 2011 researching and planning, and Spring 2012 shooting and editing footage, “Generation TempleTown” will be available on TTN’s website today, Tuesday, May 1.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.