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Aug 21, 23

Call to Struggle Around Bartram’s and Against the Proposal for “Cellicon Valley”

Reflection on the growing struggle to defend Bartram’s North from development in so-called Philadelphia. To read the full article on Philly Anti-Capitalist, go here.

Development is officially moving forward – though very slowly – in destroying the alluring wastelands of Bartram’s North, the wooded riverside area just north of Bartram’s Gardens in Southwest Philly. For years, this area has been a favorite hangout spot for anarchists, ravers, feminist nude sunbathers, and other companions in being up to no good. Within the past eight months, a fence has gone up – twice – around the fields adjacent to the bike path that runs through the area, and a nearby building is slated to be demolished at the end of July. Earlier that month, three surveillance cameras were installed high up along Botanic Ave, the street that leads up to Bartram’s North. An unpermitted rave at Bartram’s in mid-July was reportedly broken up by police, which was to our knowledge the first time cops had kicked a party out of that location.

Cover to ‘Fuck a ‘Cellicon Valley’ Zine

Resistance to the project has also been moving along, but slowly. According to websites like Philly Anti-Cap, over this calendar year so far the following events and actions have taken place:

– January: A zine is released entitled “Fuck a ‘Cellicon Valley’: Against the Proposed Development of Bartram’s North and South.”
– February: “Fuck Cellicon Valley” graffiti goes up along with “No Cop City” slogans.
– February: A Valentine’s Day-themed communique entitled “ISO Fence4Fence” notes that the fence around Bartram’s North has been broken down and is accompanied by anti-Cellicon Valley graffiti nearby.
– February: Iffy Books hosts a zine launch and social to publicize “Fuck a ‘Cellicon Valley.’”
– March: A communique claims the sabotage of a machine at Bartram’s North that was in the process of destroying “one of our favorite post-industrial wildernesses.” Bleach was poured into the tanks and tools were stolen.
– March: An anarchist assembly meets to discuss the various ecological and place-based struggles across the city, connecting the proposed struggle at Bartram’s with other campaigns like Save the Meadows, Save the UC Townhomes, No Arena in Chinatown, and the fight against the Cobbs Creek golf course.
– March/April: Anti-development and other anarchist graffiti goes up in Bartram’s North, including “Land Back” and Developers GTFO (A).”
– April: A communique posts photos of graffiti at Bartram’s North (with slogans including “fuck in the forest (A)” and “developers GTFO”) “for those Sexy Elves and Fairies out there in the Sex Forest. Let’s make the space more fun and cute while we defend the land. ;-)”
– May: A “work party” takes down most of the fence around the Bartram’s North fields for a second time and puts up more graffiti.
– June: “Feral gnomes” write a claim taking responsibility for pouring grit into the lubricating system of an earth-destroying machine at Bartram’s.

The proposal for “Cellicon Valley,” part of the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan, threatens to build a biotech campus at the sites of Bartram’s North and Bartram’s South. As well as demolishing the green spaces in those areas, the proposal also likely involves razing Bartram’s Village (the project housing nearby), and displacing its residents to build a new road to the Bartram’s South site.

This proposal is part of an ongoing effort by Philadelphia’s city planners to attract tech investment and brand the city as a new tech hot spot in competition with innovation hubs like Boston, the Bay and Silicon Valley itself. The city has been trying to do this kind of thing for a while, with mixed results, for example with Philadelphia’s failed attempt around 2018 to win the bid to house Amazon’s second national headquarters.

It is critical that we help them continue to fail in this goal. The effects of gentrification have already been devastating, and taking it to this level would make the city unlivable for everyone except a newly arrived generation of yuppie tech gentry.

The city is still looking for a partner to actually carry out the development process at Bartram’s. The PIDC (Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation) is reportedly in conversation with three development firms: Quaker Lane Capital, Gattuso Development Partners/AR Spruce, and Lincoln Property Company. The latest information we have, from February 2023, says they expected to select a partner and negotiate a development agreement by the second quarter of 2023.

It is much easier to intimidate potential developers, discouraging them from committing to the project in the first place, than it is to dissuade companies that have already signed a contract. Waiting until a developer is actually chosen might galvanize resistance by helping publicize the project and showing people it’s a real threat, but do we really want to wait til the deal is done, mainstream media has decided to start talking about (i.e. advertising) it, and everyone else on the opposition has been put on point to promote the project and squash resistance?

At this time, it’s not certain that any of the above development firms will even decide to commit to the project. If we act now, we can make this potential failure a reality. If we wait til later, we can still make construction a problem for the developers, but we’ll be at more of a disadvantage.

We don’t need to rely on our opposition’s timeline or their media; we can create our own. At this moment, we have the chance to widely publicize the project *ourselves*, spreading the information we want to see spread and finding potential accomplices, while the city waits around for their side of things to get finalized. It might not feel like it, but the time in which it’ll be most effective to act is now.

photo: Ronan Furuta via Unsplash

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Philly Anti-Cap exists to promote and spread anti-authoritarian events and ideas as well as facilitate communication between anti-authoritarians and anarchists in and around Philadelphia. We hope that this site can be used to further preexisting struggles and dialogues, we encourage you to comment, discuss, and send us submissions.

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