BY JAKE BLUMGART | Philadelphia Magazine
Monica Allison moved to West Philadelphia’s Cedar Park in 1997, buying a gorgeous red brick Victorian town house for $67,000. She’d been renting closer to the University of Pennsylvania, but her neighbors repeatedly called the police on her teenage son when he was home alone, just hanging out around the house. Allison, who is African-American, had to rush home from her job as an insurance underwriter time and again to find him handcuffed on the couch.
Even today, as the country’s increasing diversity makes racial isolation less common, Cedar Park is a rarity because of its longstanding mixture of black and white households. When Allison moved there, it had been roughly evenly comprised of black and white households since at least 1970, although the white population continued to slowly decline. That remained true even as the neighborhoods to the west, north and south of Cedar Park became more than 95 percent black. But by the end of the 1990s, Cedar Park’s white population plummeted to 27.9 percent as crime spiked and several high-profile murders racked the neighborhood.
Today, the neighborhood is rapidly changing once again. Cedar Park is one of the hottest areas in the city, and housing values are spiking dramatically. As of 2010, the neighborhood is majority-white for the first time since 1970, a stunning reversal from the 2000 census that showed the percentage of white residents at an all-time low. In 2014, Allison sold her house for $150,000. After an investor purchased and rehabbed the property, it sold for $445,000 last year.
This kind of a racial U-turn is extremely unusual in the United States. Throughout the rest of West Philadelphia, white populations fled as African-Americans in need of decent housing moved in. Once an area
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