The Revitalization of Manayunk

Located along the edge of the Schuylkill River, Manayunk has played an important role in Philly’s history. The neighborhood today is much different from the way it was years ago. Changes have taken place to make it a better place to live.

Manayunk was of the first neighborhoods in Philadelphia to undergo a massive revitalization effort. Historically, the area played an important role in the textile and manufacturing industry. But, as many of the factories and plants shut down, the number of jobs available diminished and the quality of life in the neighborhood fell. In recent years, efforts have been made to restore and revitalize the neighborhood.

The State of Manayunk Today

The neighborhood is conveniently located in the northwestern section of Philadelphia. It’s served by a regional rail train station, has easy access to Interstate 76, and has a number of trails for cyclists, walkers, and runners. According to the Manayunk Development Corporation, about 25,891 people lived within a one-mile radius of the neighborhood in 2010. The median age was 36.6 and the number of households was around 11,488.

Housing available in the area includes a mix of condos or rowhouses, multi-family properties, and a few single family homes. The average home price for a rowhouse is around $299,859. In addition to the century-old rowhouses, in recent years, many of the former mills and factories have been transformed into apartment or loft buildings.

Historic Preservation and the Build-Up of Main Street

When did the revitalization of the neighborhood start? While some areas of Philly are in the process of being revitalized or gentrified today, Manayunk had its hey-day between the 1980s and 2000.

Revitalization efforts most likely date back to when Main Street was named to the National Register of Historic Places, in the early 1980s. Starting with the decline of the textile industry, many of the shops on Main Street were left vacant and unused. That changed in the 1990s, when restaurants began opening up along the street. in 1996, the Manayunk Special Services District was created to establish a “clean, attractive, safe, and well-managed business district so that [the district] can successfully compete as an environment in which to do business, live, shop, dine, and visit.”

Life on the Schuylkill River

The name of the neighborhood is derived from a Lenape word that means “where we go to drink.” Today, people joke that the name refers to the number of bars and breweries that dot Main Street. But it’s more likely that the name refers to the neighborhood’s proximity to the Schuylkill and to the existence of the canal, which provided the water that powered many of the factories.

Part of the revitalization efforts of the neighborhood have focused on revitalizing the waterfront area. Destination Schuylkill River aims to connect residents of and visitors to the area to the river. Its projects include maintaining and improving bike paths along the river, encouraging exploration of the natural area around the river, and offering programs such as canoe and kayak rentals that help people get out on the river.

Another major revitalization program in the area was the creation of the Venice Island Performing Arts Center. The performing arts center is run by the Department of Parks and Recreation. It’s much more than just a theater. Beneath it is a 4 million gallon water tank and pumping station. The arts center and pumping station was a $45 million project created by a joint effort between Parks and Rec and the Philadelphia Water Dept.

Today, people who live in Manayunk enjoy a variety of special events throughout the year, from the annual StrEAT Food Festival to holiday events. Year-round, there are plenty of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options to choose from that all make the neighborhood an engaging and exciting place to live.


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