In March 1997, the City Planning Commission mailed over 4,300 survey questionnaires to Manayunk households in an effort to gauge neighborhood opinion about a variety of quality of life issues, and to help public and private actors focus their energies on solving community problems. A total of 1,624 responses were received, a return rate of 37.1%. Summarized below are the major findings of the Opinion Survey of Manayunk Residents.

Manayunk is home to a diverse mix of people and households. Long known to Philadelphians as a prosperous, working-class family neighborhood, Manayunk's small town character, affordable housing, and growing reputation among the graphic arts community have attracted an increasingly diverse population in the past decade. This increased diversity is reflected in the following profile of survey respondents:

  • 54% family households;
  • 28% one-person households (of which 63% were female, and 20% were elderly);
  • 18% non-family households;
  • 32% of respondent households have children present;
  • 36% of households with children used public schools, and 36% used parochial schools.

Manayunk has a high rate of homeownership. The Manayunk neighborhood has one of the highest homeownership rates in Philadelphia. Overall, 73% of the survey respondents were homeowners. Owner-occupied rowhomes are the predominant housing type.

Over 40% of renter households reported that they actively considered buying a residence in the Manayunk study area. In general, these potential purchasers are in the prime "first-time home buying" years. Almost 70% had household incomes between $30,000 and $80,000, and 62% were already renting single-family properties in Manayunk.

Manayunk is an established community of long-term residents, that in recent years has seen a growing proportion of newer and younger residents. Almost 44% of survey respondents lived in Manayunk for 25 years or more. Over 40% have resided in the neighborhood for fewer than 10 years, and over one-quarter of survey respondents have lived in Manayunk for less than five years.

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents resided in Manayunk for family-related reasons (38% were born and raised in the neighborhood). Another 41% came to Manayunk and liked what they saw, either moving to the neighborhood without any prior personal connection, or being introduced to the area by friends or co-workers.

Slightly more than 56% of respondents reported that they expected to continue to live in Manayunk. Twenty-nine percent said they expected to leave the neighborhood within the next three years. For those who were planning to move, the top three reasons given were parking problems (23%), the need for more living space (18%), and employment-related reasons (16%).

While there is general satisfaction with the overall quality of life in Manayunk, there is also significant concern among residents that it is changing for the worse. Sixty percent of survey respondents rated Manayunk's overall quality of life (QOL) as "good" or "very good." Only 11% gave the area a negative rating. A significant 29% rated Manayunk's QOL as only "fair."

While opinion was decidedly mixed concerning how Manayunk's QOL had changed over the past several years, a significantly large 39% of survey respondents reported that it had gotten worse. Thirty-two percent of respondents reported change for the better, and 29% said the neighborhood "stayed about the same."

Manayunk has an acknowledged problem with automobile parking on residential blocks. The attitude of Manayunk residents with regard to traffic and parking problems is indisputable. Many written-in comments on returned survey forms mentioned parking difficulties, and many cited parking as a primary reason for planning to move out of Manayunk. Traffic and parking problems were the "most disliked" characteristic of both residential Manayunk and the Main Street Commercial District.

While the automobile traffic generated by Main Street commercial development is a major annoyance to residents, also contributing to the problem is a high percentage of car ownership among survey respondents. Ninety percent of the respondent households had automobiles (versus 62% citywide).

Fifty-one percent of respondent households reported owning more than one car (versus 34% citywide), and 13% of these households had 3 or more cars (versus 6% citywide). Among survey respondents, 60% of the multiple-car households were either very long-term (35 years or more) or newer (less than five years) residents.

While 62% of respondent households usually parked their cars on their block of residence or used off-street spaces, 28% parked a block or more distant, and 6% admitted to usually parking on the sidewalk.There is a high degree of usage of the Main Street Commercial District by survey respondents. Overall, 82% of survey respondents reported being users of the Main Street Commercial District. While 40% of the respondents visited Main Street on a weekly basis, 18% said they "never visited Main Street."

The most frequently cited reasons for visiting Main Street were night life/entertainment (33%), purchase of goods and services (29%), and strolling/window shopping (23%).

Of those who never visited Main Street, the most frequently cited reasons were "shops don't carry the things I need" (35%), "too expensive" (27%), and lack of parking (15%).

There is only moderate usage of the Manayunk Canal Towpath by survey respondents. Only 50% of the survey respondents reported being users of the Manayunk Canal Towpath. Of these, 34% were weekly users. The most frequently cited reasons for Towpath use were athletic/fitness activities (57%) and other leisure-time uses (31%). Most non-users of the Towpath said they were "just not interested" (57%) or didn't feel safe (34%).

Residential Character Rating. Forty-one percent of survey respondents gave a positive rating to Manayunk's residential character. Forty-six percent rated this character as just "fair." Only 13% said the residential character was "poor" or "very bad."

The best-rated features of Manayunk's residential neighborhood were its "convenience to places of worship" (80% of respondents); "convenience to work and school" (74%); "your neighbors" (55%); "safety" (52%); and "public transit service" (49%). Overall, convenience to work and school is what most respondents liked best about living in Manayunk, selected by more than one-fifth of all respondents.

The poorest-rated feature of Manayunk's residential neighborhood was its "traffic and parking," selected by 80% of all respondents. "Traffic and parking" was what residents also disliked most about the neighborhood.

Main Street Commercial District Character Rating. The highest rated features of the Main Street Commercial District were its "overall condition and appearance" (78% of respondents); "lighting" (71%); "cleanliness" (69%); "safety" (62%); and "growth as a tourist attraction"(59%). "Overall condition and appearance" was what respondents liked best about Main Street.

The poorest rated feature of Main Street was its "traffic and parking," selected by 88% of the respondents. "Traffic and parking" was what respondents also disliked most about Main Street.

Measures for improving Manayunk's Quality of Life. The five most important items identified by respondents for improving Manayunk's quality of life were "crackdown on nuisance behavior" (88%); "better traffic and parking enforcement" (85%); "public parking garage for Main Street" (84%); "regular residential street cleaning" (83%); and "more visible police protection" (77%).

Events and Festivals are well-liked. A majority of respondents expressed their approval for the five weekend festivals held in Manayunk during the year. The First Union (formerly CoreStates) US Pro Bike Race received the largest approval rating (77%), and is clearly a major source of pride for the neighborhood.

Disapproval of these events ranged from 11% to 16% of respondents. Much of this disapproval has to do with restricting residents' freedom of movement on event weekends, as well as inadequate crowd control measures.