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Most Philly residents understand the importance of a public school catchment


Most Philly residents understand the importance of a public school catchment

Most Philly residents understand the importance of a public school catchment. Even if you don’t have school-age kids it can significantly affect property values.

There are the most renowned catchments; you know the ones that are always filled to capacity and sometimes have waitlists and lotteries. The Penn Alexander School is the OG, where some parents notoriously set up actual camping sites over the freezing MLK Birthday weekend to claim a place at the front of the outdoor kindergarten registration line (this incident propelled the start of the lottery and the end of “first come, first serve”). Meredith, Greenfield, and McCall in Center City are other extremely popular catchments. There are others as well, including Bache-Martin, Chester Arthur, Fanny Jackson Coppin (f/k/a Andrew Jackson), Henry, Nebinger, and others (and I apologize in advance if I did not mention a specific school. I just named a few. There are many more). All of these schools have varying degrees of upward effect on property values, and some buyers look closely at the catchment boundaries when deciding on and valuing a home.

Now PAS is the only catchment significantly funded in part by Penn, or should I say it was the only one. As reported this week by Kristen A Graham in the Inquirer, “The University of Pennsylvania is poised to change the fortunes of another West Philadelphia public school, pouring nearly $1 million annually for five years into Lea Elementary.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 2022). This is big news.

Penn Alexander, its capacity issues, lottery, and its effects on the neighborhood and property values have been discussed extensively in the local press, social media, and community groups for many years. Its effect on Spruce Hill, parts of Garden Court, and surrounding neighborhoods have been dramatic, to say the least. In fact, the Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 47th and Locust and home values within its catchment borders have been beneficiaries of PAS’s popularity. This is a common phenomenon, where an ultra-popular catchment increases the popularity of neighboring schools just outside that catchment. (For other examples, see Nebinger and Coppin (both adjacent to Meredith) and Arthur (Greenfield).) As neighborhoods become more popular, the catchment schools become more desirable, and the Home School Associations become stronger and further improve the schools. This makes the neighborhood more desirable and so on. As the neighborhood becomes more expensive, some buyers move to adjacent neighborhoods and the cycle continues.

Now back to what this news means for Lea Elementary. As I mentioned above, Lea is already an improved and desirable school. When I list homes in the Lea Catchment, I always mention the Lea School in my marketing materials. I have done so for years. But this new partnership with Penn is significant, and it should further increase property values within the Lea Catchment. Cedar Park, Garden Court, and Walnut Hill, the three primary neighborhoods within the Lea Catchment, have been appreciating in value for decades. University City has long been one of Philly’s most desirable areas. But this Penn-Lea partnership will likely accelerate this appreciation specifically within the catchment boundaries.

By the way, the Lea Catchment boundaries are Sansom Street to the north, 46th on the east from Sansom to Pine, then up Pine to 47th on the east from Pine to Baltimore. Baltimore Avenue on the south to 49th, then 49th on the west from Baltimore to Larchwood Avenue, and then up Larchwood to 50th, and the 50th Street on the west back to Sansom.

I love talking Philly schools and school catchments, and I know the private schools as well. Please reach out with any school or other real estate related questions.