A large new apartment development is planned for the Old Kensington neighborhood, in South Kensington, that will take the growing neighborhood to a new level of development. Known as Soko Lofts (short for South Kensington), the new apartment complex is being designed for the many artists and creative workers that have made this neighborhood home. South Kensington has attracted many, many creative types in recent decades, and the area is also attracting some new, often upscale, development. But, the neighborhood still has some vacant buildings and quite a few empty lots. Some of the vacant buildings and empty lots are large industrial sites with much potential for major redevelopment, and Soko Lofts is on just such a site. It will be built between Second and American Streets, just a block north of Girard Avenue and the large Piazza developments, another redevelopment of a large, vacant industrial site. This particular site is known as the Absco site, and has been an empty lot for a long time.
The new complex, which is being built by Canus Corporation and designed by Barton Partners, will consist of 320 loft-style apartments. The developers want to build three buildings surrounding a courtyard, with retail space at certain corners on American Street and Second Street and a large brick plaza at American and Thompson Streets, a couple blocks up from The Piazza’s new SuperFresh supermarket. The entire complex will have 294,000 square feet of indoor space in the three buildings, with the two buildings on Second Street being four storeys tall and the one on American Street being seven storeys and 78 feet tall. The buildings will be clad in brick, composite, and metal panels (some flat and some corrugated), with glass bay windows, balconies, and roof decks.
The shorter buildings, on Second Street, would be built first and the taller American Street building would be built in a second phase within the next five years. The developers plan 130 bike parking spaces and 140 spaces for cars, both in the courtyard and, preliminarily, on the first floor of the American Street building. That last idea is very unpopular with the neighbors and city planners and caused much discussion at recent Civic Design Review and Planning Commission meetings. The developers agreed that street level parking on American Street would be undesirable, and reminded everyone at the meetings that conditions might change quite a bit in the next five years. American Street has traditionally been a very industrial street, but many neighbors and planners believe that it’s unrealistic to expect much new industry, or many industrial jobs, would be located so far from the highway and that American Street should be redeveloped with creative office and studio buildings, and live-work artist loft apartments, such as in the Crane Arts Building, cater-corner to the Soko Lofts site. A creative business district, as such, should have quite a bit of retail and gallery space. Canus has promised to include gallery and street-level studio space on American Street, and many are hoping that they will have just that kind of space, and retail space, along American Street with no parking spaces on the first floor. The Planning Commission approved the project’s entire plan of development at their May meeting so that the developers can get financing, even though the commissioners strongly believed that street-level parking on American Street should be avoided when the second phase is planned.
Soko Lofts will be the biggest development to be built in South Kensington in decades. But, it’s not the only one. Just north on Second Street, several upscale developments are underway and many small townhouse and condo buildings are being built in Old Kensington. Several industrial buildings are being renovated into artists lofts and studio space, and more might be on the way, like the huge former Stetson Hat Factory, at 5th Street & Montgomery Avenue, is rumored to be renovated into apartments soon. An old firehouse, nearby on Fourth Street, has just been renovated into a large studio and educational coworking space for artists, called 3Rd Ward. Girard and Frankford Avenues are seeing a large amount of new retail and residential development and the nearby waterfront is seeing new development, such as the new Canal North entertainment project. The explosion of development in Kensington and Northern Liberties is making the area prosperous once again and making Kensington an exciting place to live and work, as well as, to invest. If you are interested buying or selling a home or investment property in Kensington, or any other place in the city, please contact me at Gabriel.firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my Long & Foster agent portal, my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor, or my twitter page, @GabrielGPhilaRE. You can, also, learn more about our Long & Foster Philly Center City office, here. And, you can see more about Soko Lofts on the Barton Partners website, here, and look at these renderings and my pictures of the site and neighborhood, below.