Olde Kensington- a renewed industrial hub on Philly’s Northside

Like most inner-city Philadelphia neighborhoods, Olde Kensington has roots in colonial Philadelphia. It was conceived in 1730 by  a wealthy provincial councilor named Anthony Palmer to become a mirror of upscale London, with regal sounding street names like Hanover, Prince (Girard) and Bishop (Berks). Gradually, however, it proximity to the waterfront and rail lines lent the neighborhood more to manufacturing and Olde Kensington ultimately became a quite the North Philly industrial hub centered along American St. One can still see vestiges of its regal ambitions with grand Italianate flats along 2nd Ave.

After World War II, the neighborhood began to decline due to deindustrialization and abandonment became commonplace in Olde Kensington, although not as widespread as other North Philly neighborhoods like Sharswood or Cecil B. Moore. Since the 2000s the gentrification of the surrounding districts of Northern Liberties and Fishtown spilled over into Olde Kensington drawn by its more affordable rents and loft spaces. Many industrial spaces have also been converted into artistic workspaces and interesting mixed-use buildings. The City recently made major infrastructure investments  along American St, giving it a road diet and adding dedicated bike lanes, and creating a boulevard. The neighborhood is now seeing significant renovation projects and in-fill leading to a rapid ride in housing costs.

The biggest missing piece in Olde Kensington from an urbanist perspective is more retail amenities. Girard is the closest thing the district has to a business district but its not very consistant. Park amenities and Bike infrastructure are also limited. I hope the district can produce more affordable housing to offset district’s rapid price increases. There are plenty of vacant lots remaining.

  

Click here to view my Olde Kensington Flick Album

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* ADA curbs are pretty consistant along the commercial streets but hit or miss on the residential streets. But better than most Philly neighborhoods.
* Great racial diversity. Also very good economic distribution but too high of a poverty rate (around 25%).
* Cultural amenities include a very diverse array of restaurants, several bars, distilleries, and breweries, a handful of art galleries, a couple local museums, and a local theater. Also convenient access to the plethora of cultural amenities in adjacent Northern Liberties and Fishtown.
* Neighborhood amenities include convenient access to Acheme Markets, many ethnic grocerias, several drug stores, several boutiques, convenient access to a couple post offices and a library, a couple bike stores. Several churches open across a decent diversity of denominations but not a ton. These are concentrated along Girard Street but decent mix of uses throughout. Also good access to amenities in surrounding districts like Fishtown and Northern Liberties.
* Only a handful of smaller schools within Olde Kensington but plenty in surrounding neighborhoods that are still very walkable.
* Generally very good architecture with the historic warehouses, a fair amount of more elaborate rowhouses mixed in and great urban in-fill.
* Urban massing is generally pretty good but some vacant lots and industrial uses still existing along American and Cecil B. Moore. Urban streetscaping is pretty tired and uninspiring with the major exception of American St. which is getting a complete make over and road diet. 

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Bike infrastructure a bit limited. Only dedicated lanes along American Street and a handful of dedicated bike stations.
* Generational diversity is deceit but not great.
* For sale prices are beginning to look like Northern Liberties in Olde Kensington, especially the eastern half and southern edge. Still some modest price homes selling in the high 200Ks and look 300Ks. There are mainly smaller condos/townhouses. The majority of homes selling anywhere between 400K-800K. These are either renovated or new product.
* Rentals are pretty expensive as well with 1-bedrooms leasing in the $1,000s, 2 bedrooms in the mid 1000s to low $2,000s. and 3-bedrooms in the 2Ks and low 3Ks. Some dedicated affordable apts are present here.
* Park amenities within and near Olde Kensington but there is the Hancock Playground  and Cruz playground/recreational center.
* No active hospitals within or adjacent to the neighborhood.
* Crime does not appear to be a major issue in Olde Kensington but still a decent amount of blight remains here.
* Tree canopy is wanting. 

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