The community has a clear vision for NKCDC properties on Frankford Avenue
In November we asked East Kensington and Fishtown neighbors to weigh in on future plans for two properties we own near the intersection of Frankford and Susquehanna Avenues.
Over 850 people responded by online form and paper ballots, and dozens came to an in-person event on November 12 to talk about options and hear NKCDC’s history and process with the lots. In addition, we mailed letters to everyone living within 500 feet of 2200 Frankford Avenue, and knocked on doors on nearby blocks.
Giving neighbors a voice
NKCDC has owned open land at 2200-08 and 2211-17 Frankford Avenue, near the intersection of Frankford & Susquehanna, since the late 1990s. Over those 20+ years, the spaces have seen a variety of seasonal uses, from children’s programming to art installations, beer gardens to wine gardens, dog-walking to leisure space.
Community participation in long-term planning for these lots is essential. To help steer the conversation, NKCDC identified three basic options for each space:
- Affordable multi-family rental housing with commercial space on the first floor
- Green space open to the community, with a sustainable stewardship model
- Outdoor vendor market space, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs
Ninety-four percent of the people who responded to our surveys said they lived within walking distance of the properties. The remainder lived in Philadelphia. While our survey relied on good-faith participation, we saw no indication that anyone tried to stuff the ballot box, online or on paper.
2200-08 Frankford Avenue
With 86 percent of the vote, neighbors overwhelmingly asked that the lot at the northwest corner of Frankford and Susquehanna remain green space.
Many people commented that new development has filled in many of the neighborhood’s empty lots, and there aren’t enough safe spaces for dogs to run or kids to play. Many also asked for more maintenance.
“I love stopping here on my daily walks to appreciate the mural and trees,” one person wrote. ”It’s one of the last few green spaces in our immediate residential neighborhood.”
“I’m a leader in the friends groups for Hagert St Playground and the Collins Smith Barrick Playgarden on Hagert Street,” another wrote. “Having these well maintained spaces on my block are crucial for community building and a calm, open space in an area quickly closing in!”
Because of neighbors’ enthusiasm for green space at 2200 Frankford, NKCDC is committed to keeping the space green, and keeping it mowed and trash-free. We will gather additional community input in the spring to explore sustainable models for providing the level of maintenance and amenities that residents want. We will use similar forms of outreach, with email, social media, mailed letters, and door knocking.
2211-17 Frankford Avenue
Seventy percent of participants said that the lot across the street at 2211-17 Frankford Avenue should remain outdoor vendor market space, and 23 percent asked it to be publicly accessible green space.
After a separate community survey in April 2022, Mural City Cellars, a local winery, was invited to operate an outdoor wine garden on the site for the 2022 season.
“I’m directly behind the wine/beer garden,” one neighbor wrote. “With some small development this lot is the perfect size and location for this usage, along with local artists flea market events, world series viewing parties (and other viewing parties), childrens’ functions, and holiday events.”
“As a local business in the area, green spaces or outdoor market/vendor spaces are important for having people want to hang out around our business and walk this far down the avenue,” another person wrote.
“The wine garden was such a value add to our community this year! It is a family friendly outdoor space with culture-driving events.” “It would be great if the public could access this space during off-peak seasons when not in use.”
Based on the positive response from this survey, NKCDC will continue to use this space for small, local businesses. Stay tuned for news about what to look forward to in the spring of 2023!
Need for affordable housing
Although only a small minority of residents wanted the lots to be developed, the need for affordable housing was mentioned in comments dozens of times.
- “Affordable housing is also an important initiative that we desperately need, which leaves me somewhat torn,” one participant wrote.
- “I would choose housing if it is going to be truly affordable,” another said.
- “Affordable housing uses AMI [Area Median Income] of the suburbs. If it was mixed income housing, I would support. Fishtown needs more low income housing and middle income housing.”
Affordability in Philadelphia is indexed to what is called Area Median Income (AMI), but because the area includes much higher income parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, what is officially “affordable” is actually out of reach for most Philadelphia residents.
In the coming years NKCDC will continue our East Kensington Scattered Site project, developing four affordable single-family homes on vacant lots.
This year, we also won Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding to develop Ruth Street Civic House, 44 affordable one-and-two-bedroom apartments next door to our offices near the Somerset El stop. With an additional subsidy from Philadelphia Housing Authority, half the building will be priced for households making 20 or 30 percent of Philadelphia’s AMI—much closer to the real median family income in Kensington.