At Front and Tasker sits the garage of Billy Ski and Fred O'Rourke.
Lifelong friends, they are a couple of roofers in their 50s who spend most of their free time in the garage with a pit mix named Widdy - "like the dartboard," Billy explained - fixing up their antique cars. Like Billy's beautiful 1963 candy-apple Chevy Nova.
If gentrification abounds in the neighborhood in the form of pricey new townhouses, it ends at Billy and Fred's metal gate. The garage is private. Strictly friends and family.
"If we don't know you, you're not getting in," Billy likes to say. "And I have to know you for a long time."
Billy and Fred's spot sits on the southeastern tip of what is now being billed as "Greater Center City." This apparently includes everything from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street, river to river. The moniker comes from the Center City District's annual State of Center City report.
The report, released Monday, was full of good news: skyrocketing population and development, booming cultural attractions, and through-the-roof favorability ratings of downtown life. Of course, concerns remain, with a weak job market and underfunded schools topping the list.
The report's definition of Center City makes Philadelphia's downtown population second only to Midtown Manhattan.
We just had to extend the borders a mile in each direction. No biggie. Go, us.
In light of the report, take a walk down Tasker Street, the southern boundary of Greater Center City or whatever you want to call it. (We'll visit the northern line next week.) You'll see all the unmistakable signs of the change transforming the city and all the things that come with it. The beauty, the energy, the awkwardness, and the pain.
Billy and Fred have been victims of gentrification twice. First, they got booted from their garage inside the former 7 Up bottling plant at Eighth and Montrose when it came down for townhouses. Then the same thing happened at a place on Two Street.
That's not to say they aren't welcoming in their way to the many young new faces in the neighborhood.
"I'm outgoing," said Billy, whose last name is Braciszewski but whom everyone calls Billy Ski. "I'll give them a look, like 'hello,' and some say 'hello,' and some don't, and if they don't, well then don't come looking for me when you need a jump."
From their spot, the boundary stretches west to Dickinson Square Park at Fourth and Tasker, where on Tuesday morning Peter Woolsey pushed his 8-month-old daughter, Camille, on the swings of the refurbished playground while shooting the breeze with Jason Winklbauer, who pushed his son, Spicer.
You can see the blue door of Peter's house from the park. He's been in the neighborhood for eight years - and heard the stories from a few years before that when the park was not the safest place to visit at night.
"But to call this Center City - pfft," he said. "I think they're getting a little ahead of themselves. This is South Philly."
Stretching west to Fifth and Tasker, Ronald Prince leaned against his cane, holding court outside L & S Cleaners.
"Sure, Center City is taking over," Ronald said, matter-of-factly, pointing his cane to three-story rowhouses across the street. "There are six [door]bells on them," he said. They're getting $500 to $600 a month for each apartment, he said. "That's growth."
A lot of the old-timers along Tasker Street call the young people who have moved in "New Yorkers."
Tom Esposito, who hangs at Vic's Coffee Shop at Eighth and Tasker with the owner, Vic Mele, his friend of 50 years, calls them "New Yorkers who can't find a job." But Tom had no hint of dislike in his voice, even when, in a slip of the tongue while seeming to search for the words hipsters or yuppies, he coined a new term: "Huppies."
Walk past the trendy restaurants at Passyunk and Tasker, and across Broad Street, and sit in the Jazz It Up barbershop at 16th and Tasker, as stylist Corey Mason gives a customer known as Larry the Unofficial Mayor a buzz, and you will hear a more mixed review of all the growth that has come to Tasker:
Yes, there is less blight and there are some more construction jobs, but that comes with higher taxes and higher rents and a more aggressive police presence. Larry said he couldn't keep up with all the names for the neighborhood so long known as Point Breeze: SW South Philly, Newbold, and now Greater Center City.
"South Philly is getting smaller and smaller," he said, with a wisp of nostalgia.
That was a sentiment lost on Billy Banks, a construction worker built like a slab of granite, who was digging the claw of his excavator into the cracked concrete of a playground at 20th and Tasker. On a nearby wall is an old painted mural listing the names of 46 people who had been killed by gun violence. As the neighborhood grows better, the city and private donors are building a better playground.
"Progress is progress," Billy said.
By whatever name you want to call it.