There are many reasons why new residents looking to move to Philadelphia are starting to consider Kensington as a viable option. Prospective residents are seeing it as a chance to move away from the other overpriced and overcrowded areas of the city and seeing it as a chance to be a part of the next “big thing.”
Just ask Kevin Musselman, a community relations specialist at New Kensington Community Development Corp. who has been at the community organization. Twenty-six-year-old Musselman started out as a curious resident looking to improve his own neighborhood. Four years later and he’s still there with even more excitement and energy regarding the neighborhood’s potential.
“You go to a place like New York and it’s sort of oversaturated. It’s sort of done. You’re in a place like Philadelphia and there are these beautiful buildings, beautiful homes, and the infrastructure is here. You got the subway. But it needs work. It’s exciting because there is a lot of potential and positive energy and people that really want to work on making this a better place,” Musselman says.
Because Kensington is such a large area, a great amount of diversity exists and this appeals to residents that are ready to embrace a new urban setting. The real estate pricing is also attractive to first-time homebuyers who want to live in Philadelphia without the hefty price tag. “You’ll find neighborhoods where you can buy a converted loft space for half a million dollars. You can also find two-bedroom houses for $50 to $60,000” says Musselman.
An example of a converted space is the NKCDC’s Coral Street Arts House located at Coral and East Hagert streets. The organization converted an old textile mill into a low-income housing and places for artists to live and work. The $7.5 million project was completed in 2005 and in 2006 won the Grand Jury Award from the Preservation Alliance for great preservation achievement.
“It [Coral Arts] has been very successful and as a result of bringing all of these artists in the neighborhood, more businesses have been opening along Frankford Avenue. A lot of it is art related, but it still is new business and it is turning the neighborhood around,” says NKCDC’s Executive Director Sandy Salzman.
Kensington has the arts corridor along Frankford Avenue where roughly 15 galleries and businesses open up their doors to the public for various shows and entertainment on the city’s First Fridays. This monthly event is bringing in a large amount of traffic from different areas of the city. What once experienced its prime in the neighborhood of Old City has now moved on to up-and-up of Fishtown and Kensington.
“That’s really exciting even if you’re not terribly interested in art. I think that having such a strong art presence here builds a really strong identity in the area. It makes it an exciting place to live in because there is so much positive energy behind it,” says Musselman.
Kensington keeps proving to be a neighborhood where the old works together with the new. Modern lofts are built next to classical-styled buildings, and the older long-established residents are living alongside the newer ones. At events such as the Do-It-Yourself Rain Barrel Workshop that the NKCDC hosts at Shissler Recreation Center, you can witness both young and old residents working side by side to learn more about sustainable living. The workshop provides free barrels and supplies to the attendees who learn the benefits of recycling storm water and how to install these systems in their own backyards. This event is just one example of how the Sustainable 19125 initiative is working to improve the life and environment in Kensington.
Desolate, cracked sidewalks are now being replaced by lush green landscapes at places like the New Kensington Garden Center at Frankford Avenue and Berks Streets and Greensgrow Farms at Gaul and Cumberland streets.
Residents are in the process of figuring out how to incorporate a slow-food lifestyle with their fast-paced lives. Instead of your usual fast food or mini-mart, places like the Kensington Community Food Co-Op are being created.
Newly renovated playgrounds such as Pop’s Playground & Skate Park along Trenton Avenue and East Hazzard Street are encouraging neighborhood kids to spend more time outside.
With the area being so diverse, it seems to meet so many different residents’ needs. Looking at the demographics, the majority of those living in the area are white followed by Hispanic, Asian and African Americans. With the influx of newer residents, Musselman believes the community has no choice but to grow and improve and help put the “neighbor” back in “neighborhood.”
“I hope to see a lot more investment. I don’t just mean new construction and people coming in and building houses. I’m talking neighbors working together to sweep up trash on the sidewalk and people having that civic pride to take care of each other, to look out for each other and to feel empowered.”