What happens when community outreach and real estate development culminate into an artistic outlet for Philadelphians? The New Kensington Community Development Corporation, one of the many community non-profit organizations that help serve the Fishtown/Kensington neighborhoods, has the answer with the Coral Street Arts House.
Located at 2446 Coral St., just off York Street and right by the El, this project by NKCDC allows local artists to combine their living space and their work space for not only a low monthly rent but also a sense of community.
Along with a tour of the rehabbed textile factory-turned-apartment complex and a vacant unit up for grabs, PN was able to sit down with Coral Street Arts’ property manager Marilyn Cruz, 45, and Ed McColly, 31, who since March has been the liaison between the residents at Coral Street and NKCDC.
“As part of the approach to revitalizing this area of East Kensington, there was a recognized need for quality, affordable housing,” said McColly, “but also wanting to really embrace the artist community that was already kind of living in the neighborhood.”
Cruz, who’s been a part of this initiative for seven years, has witnessed the growth of community within the Arts House and agrees with McColly in how the initiative has brought the surrounding community to embrace art and the power of creativity.
“The old neighbors see the value and I think the new neighbors start to respect the history and diversity that comes with it all,” said Cruz. “That’s what I see happening because of the changes in the community.”
In addition, popular hubs within the area such as Frankford avenue have had more galleries pop up due to the start of this residency, according to McColly, in order to reaffirm “the holistic approach to encourage the arts in the neighborhood.”
With the space in all containing 27 units available to artists, allowing tenants to work independently, there is no shortage of mingling and possible collaboration among Coral Street artists.
“A couple months back, we had a potluck dinner and recently they got together on their own,” said Cruz. “So little by little once they get their footing, [with the] new place, new people, they start to make those connections and understand how it helps them as well as business.”
Due to low income taxing credits, a statewide system that produces options for affordable housing, tenants who make as low as $16,000 salaries up to $32,000 depending on how many people are within the household.
For more information about Coral Street Arts House or other NKCDC initiatives, check out the NKCDC site here.
– Text, images and video by Indira Jimenez