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grays ferry

plan for advocacy


Small business targeted locations with national retail in the Grays Ferry neighborhood.

Philadelphia has a rich history replete with stories of incredible triumph by community organizers and grassroots organizations. Grays Ferry has consistently played a key role in organizing, especially as issues of environmental injustice bubble to the surface of wider public consciousness. Since the nearby refinery which has marred the community for over a century has ceased operations, outside attention has turned to Grays Ferry, threatening longtime residents with residential displacement.

Gentrification is often marked by institutional investments into affordable neighborhoods. Recent investments in Grays Ferry include the establishment of the Pennovation Works campus, the opening of a Schuylkill River Trail entrance point, and the upcoming renovations of Vare Recreation Center. Proximity to these amenities remains in high demand, and developers have already delivered new residential construction, signaling that gentrification and displacement threaten much of Grays Ferry.

While the mechanisms behind neighborhood change may vary, communities should be equipped with the necessary tools to fight back against unwanted change, rising rents, and cultural shifts that threaten quality of life. This plan for advocacy proposes a suite of tools and advocacy positions that community organizations can use to become actors who shape change in their neighborhoods. These tools also ensure that benefits of private and institutional investments are enjoyed by longtime residents who have contributed over time to Grays Ferry’s community fabric.

Newcomers have already entered the neighborhood and altered the socio-economic dynamics. Moreover, institutional investment in creating safer streets, improving area tree cover, and increasing access to fresh food stand to ripen the neighborhood for attention from outsiders. Such attention threatens the staying power of longtime residents who may not have incomes to compete with high-earning, college-educated newcomers. Rents have doubled over the course of two decades, and as residential and commercial changes continue, as well as the introduction of 19,000 jobs for the former refinery site, more eyes will look to Grays Ferry than ever before. 

With the right tools and strategies, community members can participate and benefit from positive change in the neighborhood. With consensus between public agencies, private developers, and the community, residents should feel empowered to advocate for better conditions without fear of being displaced. 


This studio has developed a suite of advocacy tools aiming to: 

- Empower residents to shape future neighborhood change

- Center economic and racial justice to address decades of disinvestment and injustice

- Prioritize residents as new capital flows into the community 

- Ensure residents benefit from neighborhood investment

- Allow safe and easy access to neighborhood amenities throughout the neighborhood

- Ensure clear paths for residents to address their

concerns with city agencies and other stakeholders

It will take a concerted effort from public, private, and advocacy actors to combat the pernicious issue of rising unaffordability, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the economic wealth gap in America with few protections for neighborhoods like Grays Ferry. This plan aims to shift the power dynamics and equip Grays Ferry with tools and principles to shape neighborhood change and thrive in place


Nando Micale


Divya Khandke,

Jarrodd Davis,

Mengting (Kelly) Yan,

Tyler Bradford,

Andrew Knop,

Sophia Winston,

Xiaohan (Joy) Yang, Chelsea Zhang


Local median home values in Grays Ferry and the surrounding neighborhoods.


New development permits in Grays Ferry.

Permit Chart-01.jpg
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