It seems like we’re bringing a massive development project in the Riverwards to your attention 8 days a week. Development is everywhere in this section of the city. Housing prices and rents have only gone in one direction over the last decade; up. We thought the prices in Fishtown were getting ridiculous a few years ago, but they have continued to climb as development has pushed northward. It is difficult to find a new construction home with parking south of the Lehigh Viaduct for under $500,000 in this climate.
One development company has made it their goal to provide affordable high-end new construction homes to buyers in the Riverwards and other Philadelphia neighborhoods. The Riverwards Group, led by Larry McKnight and Mo Rushdy, have been on a development tear as of late. You may recognize some of their recent projects:
- Avenue 30: a 30 townhouse development in East Kensington
- Francisville Workforce Housing: a 16 affordable townhouse development in Francisville
- Residence at the Fillmore: an 18 townhouse development in Fishtown
- Fishtown Residence: a 12 townhouse development in Fishtown
- Cambria Court: a 12 townhouse development in Port Richmond
- Fishtown Court: a 12 townhouse development in Fishtown
- Residence at York: a 12 townhouse development in East Kensington
- Boston Court: an 8 townhouse development in East Kensington
- N5 Square: a mixed-use project with 57 residential units in South Kensington
Believe it or not, these are not even all of the projects they have undertaken over the last few years and they have more developments in the pipeline.
Mo and Larry, engineers by trade, are currently constructing their biggest project to date. Kensington Courts, a 155 unit mixed-use development, is rising at the corner of Frankford Ave. and Lehigh Ave. The development includes 60 single family dwellings, 24 units within 12 duplexes, 71 condos, 4 commercial spaces, 158 car parking spots, and 104 bike spaces. The project also includes a publicly-accessible trail that wraps around the northern end of the development and a dog park. The units all include parking and are priced in the range of $300k to $400k. All of the finishes are customizable from the floors, to the tile, tile patterns, and grout. We cannot imagine the organization it takes to execute this kind of personalization over 155 units.
We were fortunate enough to take a tour of this massive development earlier in the week. The amount of activity on site was astonishing. On a given day, more than 100 people can be found working on the 4 acre project. There are structures in every stage of construction on the site.
One of our favorite parts of the tour was the amazing rooftop views. Many of the 155 units have rooftops with unobstructed views of the Philadelphia skyline. We stood in awe on top of the 4-story duplexes taking in the 360 degree views of the city.
This development has been in the works for quite some time. The 176,014 square foot parcel was zoned Industrial Commercial Mixed-Use (ICMX) before The Riverwards Group purchased the property for $5 million in February of 2018. ICMX does not allow residential uses by-right, so the project had to go through the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) for variances to proceed. As is common with development projects, the ZBA process was completed before the land sale went through. Developers do not want to risk purchasing a site without the assurance they will be able to build their intended project. The Riverwards Group met with the community and sculpted a plan that balanced community concerns with the economics of the project. They could have easily pursued a more dense project like the 280 unit mixed-use proposal right next to Kensington Courts that we recently told you about. The Riverwards Group began site prep in November of 2018 and has made extreme progress in the last several months.
This project is truly transformational for the neighborhood. It is bringing more residences and eyes on the street northward, which will help retailers like the Kensington Community Food Co-op and will make the neighborhood safer. Kensington Courts is being built on a former auto lot that was vacant at the time of purchase. No residents are being displaced and no old buildings were demolished. There is a true need for affordable new construction units in the neighborhood, and this project will help fill that void. Although $300k to $400k would have sounded like a crazy price for a house on Lehigh Avenue five years ago, today it is the most affordable new construction option in the neighborhood. We look forward to seeing the rest of the Kensington Courts structures rise and to the day when the intersection of Frankford and Lehigh is active with people and businesses.