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Kensington & Port Richmond : the next hotspot ?

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Kensington & Port Richmond : the next hotspot ?


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The area had / has cheaper rents - almost as cheap as West Philadelphia, beyond University City:


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Local resident's Map to West Kensington


Transport (Market-Frankfort Line)


28aRAr0.jpg : Larger Map, whole system


"My Corner" / West Kensington, Hand-drawn (2010) with comments

- some real improvements have come since then




Berk's station - a school there was expected to help "gentrify all of West Kensington"


Problem's remain - with some drug-dealing areas being addressed now


Homeless-Addicts-camp - "Like walking into Hell"


At the edge of Kensington, one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, the homeless heroin camp below Gurney Street that for weeks has been the epicenter of media attention in the nation’s opioid crisis will be cleaned up and shut down.

The crisis won’t be, experts warn, even locally.

Some worry that, once the media trucks pull away from what residents call “El Campamento,” overdose fatalities will rise as users shoot up in abandoned houses with no one watching out for them.

. . .

Old-fashioned Reading Railroad wrought-iron fencing will be installed 6 feet high along varying topographical terrain, Hill said. “It is not easy to cut through. It is not easy to jump over. It is not easy to knock down.”

Conrail’s 1½ miles of fencing will meet up with fencing that the city is installing and repairing at the ends of its bridges over the tracks.

Police Inspector Ray Convery, who oversees the East Division, which includes the Kensington/Fairhill section, said his officers were primarily concerned with safety. “I don’t want somebody sleeping in the weeds when the [machinery] comes in,” he said. “We’re not going to lock them all up for doing their drugs. We want to save them.”

Neighborhood foot patrols were replaced a month ago by 24 bicycle officers in a pilot program that makes them more visible. All are new graduates of the police academy, who typically are “more reactive,” Convery said, issuing summonses for trespassing where older officers might give warnings.

Others see public health and safety downsides.

“This will create a lot of tension, I think, between residents and people who are looking for a place to get high,” said photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge, who immersed himself in the community for his website and book, Kensington Blues.


> http://www.philly.com/philly/health/addiction/razing-of-homeless-addicts-camp-in-phila-kensington-to-begin-20170731.html

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North of Lehigh Revitalization Plan - from NKCDC


A CDC With a Plan

Just over a year ago, Kevin Gray, NKCDC’s real estate development director, was at a city auction watching regular bidders yawn at vacant parcels within the boundaries of the nonprofit’s 2013 North of Lehigh Revitalization Plan. Even $2,000 for a corner plot was no blood to the sharks.

“People just passed on them,” Gray says of the sluggish sales in the area north of the main Lehigh Avenue corridor where the Orinoka building is. “There was interest, but there weren’t a lot of people buying.”


The shrugs in North Kensington were a stark contrast to the market frenzy south of Lehigh Avenue. At a sheriff’s sale in May, a vacant lot in that section sold for $46,000, while a rehab-ready brick rowhouse — just north of Lehigh — sold for a quarter of that.


But in the months after construction workers updated the facade of Orinoka Civic House, making it look more like a new development than a derelict factory, attitudes began to shift on the auction scene. Multiple sources familiar with the Kensington real estate market say that there is now a circle of developers who will follow NKCDC wherever they go. The mentality, according to one source, is: “Let’s buy literally everything around NKCDC, [because] that’s going to be valuable.”


Beth McConnell, of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC), notes that the traditional work of CDCs is to stabilize historically disinvested neighborhoods like Kensington and make them healthier, more attractive places to live for both the current population and new residents who might come in. There’s also a perennial concern in the CDC world over displacement, as neighborhoods that poor residents could afford become more expensive. Hence, McConnell notes, the importance of Orinoka’s affordable ambitions.


“NKCDC is seeing the trends of development pressure moving into the neighborhood, but also recognizing — for the people that are living here — they might not be able to afford some of the new stuff that’s being built,” McConnell says.

While NKCDC’s Kensington stabilization plans for north of Lehigh began years ago, their ground game is more visible than it has ever been. In line with its master plan, the group is simultaneously building affordable housing, hosting homeownership workshops, beautifying vacant lots and fostering a healthy community network.



A map from North Kensington Community Development Corporation's North of Lehigh Revitalization Plan


They’re also working on curtailing the drug market. In the months since Orinoka construction began, 24th District Police Captain Daniel O’Connor has seen the effect of the $16 million rehab.

“We have less calls for service in the area,” O’Connor said at a community meeting in October. “In the last year, there was one shooting in the immediate area of [Orinoka], which is a dramatic decrease.”

He cited a combination of factors. NKCDC has been working closely with the police district to foster public safety, by installing security cameras and improving lighting at the Orinoka site. But equally important, O’Connor said, pointing to the packed church room under the roaring El tracks, more community members are getting involved.

None of these changes is happening in isolation

. . .

From Abandoned Factory to Job Creator

NKCDC isn’t operating in a silo. They have always kept close communication with major developers in their service area, and north of Lehigh is no exception. But what’s different now — compared to when the CDC started its work in East Kensington over a decade ago — is that smaller developers aren’t playing wait-and-see with the CDC’s capital investments. They’re jumping in early.

Half a mile north of Orinoka, Mike Parsell and his small crew at A-Frame Constructs are rehabbing a former lamp factory into “artist lofts,” which will begin renting for $750 a pop sometime next year.

“If people ask me where is the best place to make an investment and fix something up, I’m very open with them about north of Lehigh,” Parsell says.

His selling points are familiar to many people who’ve been lured to city living across the U.S. in recent years. Kensington is close to public transit and yet still affordable. It has a layered history. And it’s also one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Philadelphia: majority Latino, with sizeable white and black populations, and a large community of Asian immigrants.

Parsell plans to relocate his woodshop into the basement of the old factory, and at the same time, there are much bigger business plans for the heart of Kensington.

In January, Philadelphia developer and entrepreneur Leo Voloshin quietly purchased the 100,000-square-foot Lomax Rug Co. building for $870,000, just a few blocks north of Orinoka. He plans to move his 30-employee South Kensington-based textile design company Printfresh Studios there by next year.

The owners of Johnny Brenda’s and Standard Tap — two bars that were harbingers of development in two other Philly neighborhoods, Fishtown and Northern Liberties — have reportedly eyed a location north of Lehigh as well.

. . .

no one has shown interest in the area quite like the real estate investment firm Shift Capital, which has an office there. Shift began purchasing properties in the neighborhood back when NKCDC’s North of Lehigh Plan was still in its draft phase. Over the last three years, the firm has acquired more than 1.3 million square feet of space in the heart of Kensington. Real estate records show that the group has added more than a dozen properties to its portfolio in the last year, from vacant corner lots along Kensington Avenue to residential buildings.

While there’s already evidence of house flipping for quick profit in the area, Shift CEO Brian Murray says he hopes that the boom in North Kensington skips other all-too-familiar patterns.

“We already know what happens in these neighborhoods. It starts with the auction pricing, but it’s a never-ending cycle of developers and real estate folk thinking that they can squeeze more money out of the neighborhood,” he says.

Murray says Shift’s model is holistic. It starts with taking industrial buildings and returning them to job creators for the neighborhood. Healthy food market Snap Kitchen brought 80 employees to the neighborhood in a Shift development in 2015. Murray says the ink is drying on a lease with a wedding company.

“This is something that I don’t think has happened,” he says. “In a lot of other gentrifying parts, a lot of folks take the industrial and convert it into condos and residential for the quickest buck.”



In 2015, Snap Kitchen set up a food prep facility in Kensington's MaKen Studios South, above, developed by Shift Capital. (Credit: Shift Capital)


Murray and Matthew Grande, co-principal at Shift, are also piloting Jumpstart Kensington, which is modeled after a successful program in Philadelphia’s Germantown. Jumpstart’s goal is to provide mentorship and short-term financing to social impact developers who want to bring opportunities back to the neighborhood.

“There’s a number of developers that I have taken on tours of the area, and they’re honest about their goal, which is just to make money,” says Casey O’Donnell, president of Impact Services Corporation, a jobs-focused nonprofit in Philadelphia. “Shift is honest about their goal too … But they really do believe in a double bottom line, if not a triple bottom line.”


> https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/rehab-factory-philadelphia-kensington-neighborhood-jobs

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OCF EXCERPTS : Projects in East Kensington, South Kensington

Sep, 27, 2017 | 1 Comment | East Kensington


Allow us to present to you our latest installment of our long running series, Development Near the El. On our last episode, we covered a collection of triplexes under construction on the 1900 block of E. Dauphin St., and before that we told you about new construction on Huntingdon Street, right next door to the El station. You might think that proximity to the El would dampen development enthusiasm, but with demand at an all-time [...]


Germantown Avenue in South Kensington has experienced tremendous change over the last several years, with the 1400 block seeing the bulk of the construction activity. And as we've told you previously, there's still more to come for that block, with the most notable projects being an adaptive reuse that will add 50 units to the block, and a new construction project that will include 120 new units. With new apartments apparently en vogue on Germantown [...]

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Oct, 10, 2017 | 1 Comment | East Kensington

East Kensington has been on a rather dramatic upswing over the last several years, but the neighborhood was struggling for decades before this recent boom. We believe it was likely the NTI efforts by the Street administration that knocked down hundreds of blighted buildings in the neighborhood, leaving it with a ton of vacant land. An extreme example can still be found on the 1900 block of E. Cumebrland, which was pretty much an open field [...]


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Oct, 13, 2017 | 0 Comment | South Kensington

We were meandering around South Kensington the other day, and as we were traveling on the 500 block of Montgomery Avenue, some construction construction caught our eye on a nearby block. This construction is taking place on the 500 block of Morse Street, a block that we bet you'd struggle to find on the map if we didn't already tell you it was near the 500 block of Montgomery. Obstructed view of construction Upon closer inspection, [...]


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Oct, 16, 2017 | 1 Comment | South Kensington

Slowly but surely, we're continuing to see development creep northward in South Kensington. Just the other day, for example, we told you about three homes under construction on the rarely explored 500 block of Morse Street. Today, please allow us to draw your gaze to a large vacant lot right around the corner, where something a little more significant could soon be in store. Zoning notice The zoning notice in the image above relates to [...]



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OCF Summaries, about new projects in Kensington
Oct, 25, 2017 | 4 Comments | East Kensington

Developers purchased 2411 Kensington Ave. last year, paying $450K for the 10K sqft property. ... proceeded with permitting for a new mixed-use building


Over the last few years, we've covered numerous projects on Front Street, watching as this long blighted corridor has slowly come back to life. Intuitively, Front Street's comeback makes sense, with Fishtown booming on one side and South Kensington rapidly improving on the other. Sure, the sound and shadow of the El will forever hold Front Street back from being the best possible version of itself, but new apartments, restaurants, and other businesses have brought Front



  • Jeff Clinton 3 days ago

    Incidentally, directly across the street, the entire block is up for sale for 2.3M. If that goes, then you get rid of the NA zombie hangout and the BS mattress outlet, you’ll see real change. I think that the developer will get renters for market rate, but what is market there? Not CC obviously. But there’s plenty of people looking to rent for a little cheaper than northern liberties and south Kensington. North Philadelphia has a lot going for it, and a lot going against it, but people are attracted to older architecture and ambiance. The El is such an incredible asset. I know I was. Plus there’s just more room. South Philly is so tight, and the housing stock is newer, at least in the more affordable areas. North philly has a lot to offer for the price, and as more people move here and more legitimate businesses start up farther and farther up the El, it will mushroom like the lower end of the El has. Granted, you have to put up with some crap, but it’s worth it to fight for a decent, historical place to live. Move here, help clean up your block, talk to your neighbors. You might find they want things to get better too, and are happy to have you as a fellow homeowner. I know I have experienced that. Between Norris and York and even up to Huntington if you’re brave, there are MANY opportunities to acquire a building under the El, and start a business. Get in now before they’re gone. Otherwise in 10 years (or less) you’ll have to go north of Lehigh.


    As to the bromley building, he has zoning approval for 26 dwelling units from 2-5th floors. He just pulled a use permit for a dance studio I assume on the first floor that is vacant now. He bought the building in 2013, and am sure he got in a little over his head. I think he’s doing what he can when he can, but he probably needs some help. He’s also got active violations relating to fire code, so he’s got a lot on his plate now. But he’s paying high taxes and actually has a vacant building license, so he has 2 up on most other blightlords. Just sayin.

      • James Goodwin 3 days ago

        Hopefully he will find partners to make the Bromley Building a reality into 26 dwelling units. No man can do it alone if under capitualized.



Kensington area MAP ... w/o locations :



McPherson Square - Free Library of Philadelphia

Set in a small neighborhood park, McPherson Square serves the neighborhoods of Kensington, McPherson Square, and K & A.

It is located near the Allegheny El station.

Nearby Libraries


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Oct, 26, 2017 | 8 Comments | East Kensington

It shouldn't require much digging in the ol' memory bank to remember the story we wrote yesterday about an apartment building that's under construction on Kensington Avenue. In case you stayed up late to watch the World Series, allow us to jog your memory. 2411 Kensington Ave. used to look like this: In the past Now, it looks like this: Current view What you see in the photo above are the stair/elevator towers for what will...

. . .

In general, it looks like this will be a really nice building and a massive upgrade from the structure that stood here previously. We still have our doubts about whether tenants will fill the building at the necessary rental rates, but we would be all too pleased for the market to prove us wrong. A commenter on our previous story noted that a collection of properties across the street are currently listed for sale for $2.3M. Who knows, if the apartment building proves successful, we could see a buyer come forward for those properties (at a much lower price than asking), and even more development on Kensington Avenue. [...]


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Oct, 27, 2017 | 0 Comment | East Kensington

Hagert Street between Jasper and Emerald has undergone incredible change over the last number of years, and there's more change brewing. When we were in the neighborhood the other day, we happened upon a new hole in the ground at 1914 E. Hagert St., next to a large blue garage. This parcel was previously associated with the garage, though it seems it didn't get a whole lot of use. So it makes plenty of sense that [...]

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  • 4 weeks later...


Are Market Rate Homes Possible at Cambria & Trenton?

Nov, 20, 2017 | 1 Comment | Port Richmond


There's a vacant lot at the intersection of E. Cambria Street and Trenton Avenue which doesn't seem like the poster child for market rate development. This property sits on the fringe of Port Richmond, a neighborhood that seeing developer interest trickle over from Fishtown. But it's also on the edge of Harrowgate, a neighborhood that's been severely depressed for decades and has seen little in terms of development during the current cycle. Sure, there's a [...]


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  • 2 weeks later...
Nov, 28, 2017 | 5 Comments | East Kensington


It’s quite possible that the old warehouse at 2601 Emerald St. was once a nice enough building, perhaps in its early days as a dye works, and maybe even when it was used by a bottling company through at least the 1960s. As time has passed though, the building has taken on a rough look, with bricked-over windows and cracked stucco, not exactly the kind of building you’d want on your block. Still, the building did the job for Agnew Signs for a stretch of time, at least since the 1980s.


Current view

A few years back, a sign appeared on the building (probably made in house) that advertised it was available for sale, which was a pretty good indication that the end of the line had come for Agnew Signs. Developers purchased the property in early 2015, paying $665K. Though the name of the development entity is Emerald Dye Works LLC, we can’t imagine anyone expected that the developers would be preserving the existing building. Now we’ve seen the specific plans, and we can confirm that was a solid presupposition.

The developers are planning to demolish the existing building and construct two rows of residential buildings with frontage on Emerald and Braddock Streets. Each side will consist of seven buildings, with six triplexes and one duplex. In between the buildings will be a small parking area with space for ten cars. Streamline Solutions is the developer, and we’re expecting the units will be offered for sale, as condos. Harman Deutsch has done the architecture work, and they’re responsible for the site plan and renderings that follow.

Project site plan
Project rendering
Different view
Closer view of the facades

All of this seems reasonable enough, and would absolutely represent a vast improvement over the status quo. The project goes to Civic Design Review today, for non-binding recommendations about how to move forward. If you were a member of the committee, would you have any feedback/recommended changes? Or would you be comfortable with the project moving forward as it’s currently designed?


> http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/east-kensington/lets-swap-old-warehouse-40-units-emerald-street

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