FRANCISVILLE (WTXF) - It's one of the hottest debates in the hottest housing markets in Philadelphia: is the boom of condo construction forcing longtime residents out of their homes?
Some consider the new units a major improvement, while others claim it's destroying the character of established neighborhoods.
The official definition of the term "gentrification" is the process of improving a home or neighborhood to conform to middle-class tastes. But, in the real world, it's a lot more complicated than that.
The 1700 block of West Cambridge Street is a beehive of activity, as construction crews finish the foundation on yet another condominium building.
Deborah Staton's single-story, 1,000 square foot home used to be part of an attached twin.
"It looks like the place has been kinda sawn in half," said Fox 29's Bruce Gordon.
"Hahaha! That's what it lloks like," replied Staton.
Staton has lived on this block for 18 years and, in this neighborhood, for most of her life.
Now, with neighbors selling, new condos already up, another going in next door, and yet another next to her niece's place up the block, she's feeling squeezed.
"Ugly things. I know. They're ugly. They all look alike. And, crazy colors," said Staton.
"What do you think's going on here?" asked Gordon.
"Hahaha! They're trying to get the people of color out of here," Staton replied.
"You think so?" asked Gordon.
"Uh huh," Staton said.
Staton says the owner and builder of the condos under construction - CTW Cambridge - hinted at buying her home. She says she shot down the idea. Her kids have suggested she leave. She's resisted. An amputee, she's confined to a wheelchair and stays inside most of the day.
"You like having the freedom in your own home?" Gordon asked.
"Mmm hmmm. I love it. I've always been independent," she answered.
"You don't want to give that up?" Gordon went on.
"Hahahaha! Uh uh," was Staton's response.
Her opinion may change when a complete, four-story condo building looms over her place. Gordon asks whether she may change her mind and sell to the builders transforming her neighborhood.
"I don't know. But, it won't be because of them. They're doing everything to try and get us out of here," Staton stated.
"They want you to move," said Gordon.
"Uh huh," said Staton.
"And, they're going to build up, over and around," said Gordon.
"Mmm hmmm and make it as uncomfortable as they can. And, they don't know, I'm a tough cookie," Staton explained.
The owner of both condo projects on that block, Sean Pincus, was unavailable to talk on-camera. By phone, he explained he never made anything more than a "passing" reference to buying Staton's home and nothing came of it.
As for Staton's broader claims, Pincus said, "We're not forcing anybody out."
Pincus said he views his two condo buildings as a net-plus for the neighborhood, bringing population density to the nearby Ridge Avenue business corridor.