Photo by Tina Garceau
Ranking and review site Niche.com annually publishes a list ranking the country’s “best places to live,” and South Philly’s own Bella Vista took the top slot in Philadelphia, beating out other Southbound neighborhoods Passyunk Square and Hawthorne, which finished second and third respectively.
Founded in 2002 by Luke Sherman, Niche’s predecessor CollegeProwler.com first began publishing information relating to demographics, departments, and every other piece of information that a future college student or transfers could want to make such an important decision. With the World Wide Web still relatively new, the website was one of the first of its kind allowing current and former students at colleges across the country a voice to rank their school on numerous categories to aid the next generation. As the amount of information available grew, so did the website, as the current version now known as Niche.com, which also placed Queen Village in fourth and Dickinson Square West in ninth, provides data for every level of schooling and vital statistics about neighborhoods throughout the country.
Bella Vista, which runs from Sixth to 11th streets and from Washington Avenue to South Street, earned an “A” rating highlighted by high property values, a low crime rate and impressive education level with 62 percent of residents having a bachelor’s degree or higher towering over the national average by 33 percent. The neighborhood’s exceedingly low crime rate compared to the country’s overall rate is a testament to residents working together in harmony with police through the Bella Vista Neighbors Association.
Though the civic plays a large part in helping to keep the community safe, the group has many other functions that keep the community thriving.
“Our goal is to maintain Bella Vista as a safe, beautiful, and vibrant community. We help coordinate and augment the delivery of police and city services, coordinate street clean-up days, distribute recycling bins, promote dialogue with our elected officials, host social events, and produce semi-monthly general meetings on a variety of rotating topics,” association president Eugene Desyatnik, a resident of the 700 block of South Mildred Street, said regarding the BVNA’s responsibilities.
In keeping Bella Vista safe, beautiful, and vibrant, the home values remain outstandingly high at $327,593, eclipsing the national average of $176,700 by $150,893, and that success continues to make Bella Vista a hot sell in the property market. Desyatnik sees the interest as an inclusive effort, going on to say “We are seeing increased development to meet a perceived increase in demand for housing in the area, combined with strong community involvement from life-long residents.”
Though Bella Vista has garnered national recognition, that may be hard to believe from its modest start. The section of the city whose name translates in Italian as “beautiful view” was home to many Italian immigrants looking for a better life in America. The Palumbo family, which both neighboring Palumbo Recreation Center and The Academy at Palumbo are named for, was a vital part of the area’s growth as it built boarding homes for new inhabitants.
The Italian Immigrants banded together to make some of the most profitable and well-renowned business and landmarks, highlighted by the iconic Ninth Street Italian Market. Separating from the early years, more diversity has changed the landscape but not the quality of places and people, as Bella Vista became a snapshot of America and its strengths in its differences.
Epiphany “Pip” De Luca, owner of the market’s award-winning Villa Di Roma, remains a link to his community’s Italian roots and its modern changes. The lifelong resident of the neighborhood did not need his community quantified by numbers on a website, preferring to focus on his neighbors’ qualities, as he said “As far as I’m concerned, I always know [Bella Vista] was. It was always a safe place to live and with the Italian Market, you got a chance to see all kinds of people every day, so you had variety, and different ethnic backgrounds that came in during the years, which were all hard working people.”
With “beautiful view” continuing to be a great place to live, it would be difficult to find one of De Luca’s neighbors would that dispute his claim that “It (Bella Vista) is perfect.”
Photo by Tina Garceau