The neighborhood of University City is the home of 30th Street Station, Drexel University, and University of Pennsylvania (Penn). While it’s a neighborhood thriving with business and activity, it is also a neighborhood of immense controversy in regards to its name.
Despite the presence of two universities and proximity to Center City, the area around Penn was seen as a bit of a blighted area. In an attempt to lure Penn faculty to live closer to the university, two local realtors who were both graduates of Penn coined the term “University City” in the 1950’s. Since developing this neighborhood, the name of “University City” has become a source of tension among those in West Philadelphia.
Some (not all) community members have resented Penn’s efforts to gentrify and redevelop the area around the university, leading to terms such as “Penntrification” to describe the area. These people do have a point, in that the University of Penn’s seal often appears next to signs that say “University City” on them, and the university often refers to itself as being in University City, not West Philadelphia. One element that is not very controversial and appears to be widely accepted is the notion that University City was a ploy to remove the negative connotation associated with West Philly, which still exists to some extent.
Penn also operates a partnership with Penn Alexander school, which is only open to people who have some sort of connection to the university. This is cited as just an other example of how University City is an attempt by the university to remove itself from West Philadelphia, and serve as a self-sustained community where the university and the businesses benefit from having each other around, but those outside of the “Penn Bubble” are excluded. It’s also a curious thing that the adjacent Drexel University does not seem to embrace the University City name as much as it’s neighbors at Penn.
Recently, with all of the redevelopment around Temple University and the surrounding area, local realtors have started referring to the area as “Templetown”, perhaps as an attempt to distance itself from the negative connotations of North Philadelphia that some people may carry with them. In layman’s terms, Templetown and University City are both seen as the first step towards gentrifying a neighborhood. It should be noted in Temple’s case, however, that the whole “Templetown” moniker is pretty recent, and I personally only seen it used by realtors trying to sell homes close to the university and not by the university itself like Penn does with “University City.”
Both neighborhood names are controversial, and in some cases not recognized or accepted. I’m curious to hear the opinions of LOLadelphia followers on this, particularly those who attend Temple, Penn, and Drexel. Do you think these unofficial (but official) name changes are offensive to the surrounding neighborhood of the city and a blatant attempt to distance itself from any negative connotations, or do you think it’s a university trying to market itself appropriately and make itself more appealing?