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April 16, 2024

Apartments planned at site of former Kensington Community Food Co-op

The mission-based grocer closed in February. A six-story building is among multiple projects set to bring housing units to the area.

Development Apartments
Kensington Apartments Food Coop Source/Ambit Architecture

A rendering shows plans for a 19-unit apartment building at 2666-72 Coral Street, where the former Kensington Community Food Co-op will be demolished, according to city zoning documents.

The closure of the Kensington Community Food Co-Op in February ended a fitful existence for the mission-based grocery store, which collapsed just as the immediate vicinity was lining up for a huge wave of new construction. Now, the shop's building will be torn down to make way for a new mixed-use project.

A zoning permit was issued Monday for a six-story building that will have 19 apartments and ground-floor commercial space at 2666-76 Coral Street. The design for the so-called "Lehigh Building" was completed by Ambit Architecture, the same firm behind the Coral House that's under construction next door. That project, a five-story building, will have 41 units and ground-floor commercial space. 

The two projects sit just off the five-point intersection of Frankford and Lehigh avenues, where several large development projects have taken shape in recent years.

In January, plans were approved to build a six-story, 157-unit residential complex with nearly 8,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor at 2001 Lehigh Ave., where a tire shop currently sits. Renderings show a business strip that potentially could include a grocery store. The site sits in front of the Lehigh Viaduct, an area that has long been a hotspot for crime and homelessness.

six-story, multifamily building with 453 apartments is expected to go up at 2621 Frankford Ave., just south of Lehigh Avenue. Plans to redevelop the property surfaced in 2016. A permit for the removal of the existing structures was issued in 2022.

The various projects planned around the intersection are at the southern end of an area that underwent decades of deindustrialization and disinvestment. The New Kensington Community Development Corp. has been striving for more than a decade to promote the area's revitalization by making better use of the land and increasing residential density.

The 14-year rise and fall of KCFC, which had searched for its Coral Street home for more than a decade before it opened in 2019, speaks to the long-term challenge of sustaining community-based food projects in its vein — especially as their neighborhoods change and demographics shift. The former Greensgrow Farms, a community-sourced agriculture program founded on a Superfund site in Olde Richmond in the late 1990s, thrived for years as a nonprofit that fostered food access and nutrition education. It shuttered in 2022 amid a host of labor complaints and financial mismanagement in the years after its leadership had changed.

KCFC's promise as a place for locally-sourced groceries that served many people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will linger as a great what-if in light of all the new apartments being built in East Kensington. Food assistance enrollment in Pennsylvania has reached a record high, partly due to grocery inflation and expanded eligibility. 

A timeline for the demolition of the KCFC building and the start of work on the new project has not been announced.