I moved to Philadelphia in 2002 after having lived in Brooklyn at that critical juncture when Brooklyn became hip to the world! It was a fun, heady time and it felt important to be there. Everyone seemed to know that we were living in a moment. There was a boomtown vibe.
I had moved to NYC with the hope of living in Manhattan but quickly found that the type of people that I wanted to be around were moving to Brooklyn because none of us could afford the cost to rent or buy in Manhattan. I went Brooklyn and never looked back. I made my way around ; living in Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Prospect Heights. I operated a very successful night club in Williamsburg that was at the center of everything that was coming together in Williamsburg towards the end of the 90’s. North Sixth and Bedford seemed like the most important place in the world to me.
In a few short years, Brooklyn exploded the way only a New York moment can explode. It wasn’t just Williamsburg either….it was Clinton Hill, BedStuy, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights, Dumbo, Gowanus, Red Hook…you name it. I remember when the popular sushi bar Blue Ribbon announced they were moving to 5th Avenue in Brooklyn in 2000 and the entire culinary world thought they had lost their minds. Not only were they moving to Brooklyn, they were going to be a dozen blocks off of Atlantic Avenue. They proved the critics wrong and what was once an island amidst blight is now at the heart of a tremendous destination food empire. Brooklyn all done grow’d up!
I was nearing the end of my time with the nightclub. I wanted to make my next career move. I wanted to buy real estate. I wanted to have kids, a family. I wanted more. I hopped on the motorbike and began my exploration. I had always kept a keen eye to what was happening in the many districts of the Brooklyn that I was interested in. The asking prices, even then in 2001, took my breathe away. I remember one spot in particular: a burned out four story multi-family on a craptastic block in BedStuy that had an asking price of $465,000. Did I mention that it was BURNED OUT! Gutted. Destroyed! It was going to take at least $400K to get it back together. I was a borderline financial planner to begin with. My income was spotty and generally insufficient. I was an opportunist with no opportunity.
Then we got pregnant. We immediately moved out of WillyB with its numerous well documented SuperFund sites. When we got to Prospect Heights the prices also felt out of control. Then, 9/11 happened and the world changed overnight.
Now, I should explain that Philadelphia did not present itself as an option to me overnight. I had gone to Temple University in my first misguided attempt at college and had stayed in touch with many friends over the ensuing 13 years of my absence. Some close friends of ours who had history in Philadelphia and also recently had a baby jumped ship in October. Jessica and I went to visit them in their spacious 1800 square foot apartment in November. We made up our minds almost instantly. We moved into our 1500 square foot recently renovated 2 bedroom apartment on South 10th and Carpenter (the Italian Market) by mid-December. It felt perfect!
Now, we live in Mount Airy in a rambling 6,000 square foot stone home that we rescued from two decades of neglect that sits on almost an acre of land. We have it mostly renovated. We built an apartment on the third floor that brings in income. We have more space than we know what to do with. Our mortgage is $350,000 and we put virtually none of our own money into this home.
My story is not every story. I am a ruthless deal hunter. I am generally handy. I am tenacious. I won’t take no for an answer. I wanted space and got space. But what I mean to say is that being in Philadelphia changed the way I was thinking. Nothing seemed impossible. It felt much easier just to be alive, to get around, to pay my bills, to breathe. I was exhilarated. I was calm. I knew where I was.
I don’t mean to say that Philadelphia is better or can replace that New York spirit; that Brooklyn entrepreneurial edge that seemed sharper than a knife’s edge. What I mean to say is that I feel more at home here in Philadelphia. I feel like I can accomplish more. I practice my art more. It’s easier to pay my bills which frees up that 40% of my mind that was constantly waiting for someone to eat my lunch in NYC. I have more time. There is a lot of reality here in Philadelphia and it is by no means perfect but it fits me; now!