A lot of urban places — from schools to housing projects — are named after the Rev. Martin Luther King.

 

And a lot of them would not necessarily make the great civil rights leader proud. But King would certainly appreciate a new park in the Hawthorne section of South Philadelphia at 13th and Catharine streets, and the surrounding neighborhood’s transition to one of the most diverse in just a few years.

 

The park replaces a now-demolished public housing high-rise once named MLK, which had the inglorious distinction as a magnet for crime in the neighborhood.

 

Whether it deserved it or not, the high-rise led to the disintegration of Hawthorne from a neighborhood that once stretched all the way from the Delaware River to South Broad Street. Over the years, Queen Village and Bella Vista rose as separate neighborhoods says resident Steve Playo, a member of the neighborhood association which has been integral in the new park.

 

“They shed themselves off from Hawthorne,” he says.

But even before the park is completed (it won’t open until late 2010 or early 2011), new residents are moving in, Playo says, making an area once predominantly black and Latino much more diverse.

“Since the towers came down, it was almost like people turned around and said, ‘Wow there’s Hawthorne,’” says Playo.