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Kensington’s biggest new housing project

posted January 10, 2019
Kensington’s biggest new housing project

A little less than two years ago, the heads of the RiverWards Group—developers responsible for several small housing projects around Fishtown and Northern Liberties—were working on a 30-townhome project in Kensington, when they looked across the street and saw a vacant used car lot.

“I thought, why can’t we go there?” said Mo Rushdy, who represents one half of the the RiverWards team. His partner, Larry McKnight was on board, and soon, they had broken ground on a 155-unit housing development at the corner of east Lehigh and Frankford Avenue.

Now, less than two years later, Rushdy and McKnight say they’re well on their way to finishing the project, dubbed “Kensington Courts.” They just wrapped up the first phase of development, which consists of 20 units in November, and they’re eyeing a 2021 end date. Although, they added, they expect to have many of the units leased out by the end of the summer.

The project consists of 60 single-family homes, which range from $370,000 to $400,000; 24 duplexes, which range from $279,000 to just below $300,000; and 71 condos, which are each around 1,100 square feet and cost around $240,000. It will also include 12,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

The project represents and reflects a recent boom in construction in Kensington; more developers have been moving into the neighborhood in recent years, eager to take advantage of empty lots and low property prices. RiverWards themselves have been moving more north, further into Kensington, with previous developments at Cecil B. Moore and North 5th Street, and 2320 E Susquehanna Ave in Fishtown.

“The area is going through a major transformation,” Rushdy said, pointing specifically to the intersection of Frankford and Lehigh. “We want to be part of that change.”

But that doesn’t mean bringing strictly high-end developments to the area. Rushdy said they’re eager to create a development that’s more affordable for a first-time homeowner, or for someone who could afford a $1,200-a-month apartment, but wants to buy a home.

They’ve also brought in more commercial space, in a response to concerns from the Civic Design Review (CDR) last year.

Members of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKDCD) did not immediately respond to a call for comment on the project Tuesday, but last year, Andrew Goodman of the NKDCD criticized the lack of commercial space, calling the project a “short-sighted development” at the CDR meeting.

Still, the members of RiverWards call their development a “game changer.”

“It’s the first large-scale development in the area,” Rushdy said.

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