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155-unit housing project planned for East Kensington

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Developers called for “rebirth and reinvigoration” of the neighborhood

Proposed Kensington Court in East Kensington
Riverwards Group

Northeast Philly residents have seen a development boom in their neighborhoods over recent years, but a newly proposed 155-unit housing development may be one of the largest projects yet, according to developers, The RiverWards Group.

The housing project, called Kensington Courts, is planned for a four acre space at 2035 East Lehigh Avenue—which is now home to a used car lot—and will feature 60 single-family homes, 24 duplex units and 71 condos.

Philly’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to approve the development in February. The group needs a few more zoning approvals, then they hope to begin breaking ground in August, according to Larry McKnight, a managing partner at The Riverwards Group.

The units will run for about $200,000 for a condo, around $300,000 for a town home and up to $400,000 for a single-family home. In addition to the residential spaces, the proposal includes garage parking, an acre of open space, outdoor walking trails and amenities like a fitness center, clubhouse and lounge, according to a statement from the group.

It will also be a large project for the area. Condos will start at 1,000 square feet and reach 38 feet high. The largest homes—single family dwellings—will reach about 1,900 square feet and sit at 60 feet high.

During the planning and proposal process—which started last July—the group said they were met with some resistance from the community, mostly over housing costs and retail space. Locals wanted more commercial space, prompting the developers to add several more commercial units to the project, amounting in a proposed 12,000 square feet of commercial space. Some residents also asked whether the group had plans to erect low-income housing, which they don’t, but they did try to make the homes affordable, RiverWards, managing partner Mo Rushdy said.

In response to criticism, McKnight said the project would help redevelop the area into a more desirable neighborhood.

“Do you want a used car lot or do you want progress?” he said, adding that opioid issues and homelessness have long plagued the area. “One of the things we want to do is start a redevelopment. Let’s start rebirth and reinvigoration, and start the process of changing the stigma of Kensington.”

The name—Kensington Courts—was an attempt to break away from that “stigma,” and embrace the neighborhood, McKnight said, calling the project the “Normandy Beach” of creating a culture with new construction. “We’re changing the persona and general ‘blah’ outlook.”

Rushdy added that the homes provide a reasonably affordable living situation in a part of the city that’s seen a boom in terms of development, housing, food and nightlife.

“It’s a fact of life that the area has seen a humongous transformation,” Rushdy said, adding that parts of Northeast Philly are replacing Center City as the go-to destination for visitors and many residents. That’s led to an increase in housing prices, some of which can go for $500,000 or $600,000. With Kensington Courts, Philadelphians will be able to live in an area that’s growing in popularity—just a bike ride away from more expensive areas—at a reasonable price, Rushdy said.

“Prices across Philadelphia are skyrocketing, forcing many long-time residents to look outside their own neighborhoods when considering home ownership. Kensington Courts provides something for every homeowner,” said McKnight.