More News:

August 22, 2023

157-unit apartment building proposed near Lehigh Viaduct in Kensington

The project is part of an effort to redevelop an area that has been known for its drug activity and encampments

Development Apartments
Kensington Apartments Lehigh Source/Designblendz Architecture

A six-story, 157-unit apartment building may be built at 2001 E. Lehigh Avenue in Kensington.

A six-story apartment building has been proposed in Kensington at the intersection of Lehigh and Frankford avenues, an area along the Lehigh Viaduct that has long been a focus of redevelopment in North Philadelphia.

Planning documents submitted to the city's Civic Design Review panel call for a 157-unit mixed-use building with nearly 8,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The address at 2001 E. Lehigh Ave. is currently occupied by a tire shop and other local businesses.

Renderings for the project show plans for a business strip that would include a grocery store, a gym and a restaurant.

Behind the proposed development is the Lehigh Viaduct, the former coal-hauling railroad that runs between Lehigh and Somerset avenues from the Delaware River through North Philadelphia. The tracks cut a gulch below ground level in some areas and are elevated in other parts of the stretch.

The viaduct's seclusion has made it a hotspot for illegal drug use and sales in parts of Kensington and Fairhill, particularly the tracks along Gurney Street that became a notorious encampment. That area was cleared by Conrail in 2017 after the city cited the freight operator (now jointly owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway) for failing to address the area's hazardous conditions and trash.

After the rail yard was cleared, community groups in Kensington created a walking trail and received state funds to build a park with a playground and other public amenities. The project forms part of a larger initiative to build the 1.8-mile Richmond Industrial Trail, a walking and biking greenway along the rail corridor. More than 40,000 residents live within half a mile of the planned route. 

The proposed site of the apartment complex on Lehigh Avenue sits at the southern end of an area that, a decade ago, received neighborhood planning from the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and local residents. One of the major projects to emerge from those efforts was the Orinoka Mills Civic House on nearby Ruth Street. The former textile warehouse was converted into a 51-unit affordable housing complex with community space.

The clearing of the Conrail tracks in Kensington pushed much of the neighborhood's drug activity and homeless encampments into more open areas, including under the underpass at Lehigh and Frankford avenues. In the last several years, the city has targeted many of these areas for homeless outreach and has removed people who don't seek services.

Kensington Lehigh FrankfordStreetView/Google Maps

The site of the proposed apartment building is shown above at the corner of Lehigh and Frankford avenues.

Planning documents for the proposed building at Lehigh and Frankford avenues say the development would include 59 parking spaces. The project has a hearing scheduled with the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Dec. 13.

Kensington Apartments ProposalSource/Designblendz Architecture

A rendering of the proposed at 2001 E. Lehigh Avenue.

Kensington Apartments ThreeSource/Designblendz Architecture

The mixed-use building proposed at 2001 E. Lehigh Avenue includes ground floor commercial space.