Groundbreaking held for new development in Kensington

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It was a groundbreaking Tuesday for a huge middle-class residential development at Frankford and Lehigh in East Kensington.

The development is viewed by some as Philadelphia's next hot neighborhood.

But the area has long been plagued by drug activity and up to 700 or more living on the streets and abandoned building in deep poverty.

Two esteemed developers are betting 40-million dollars on gentrification spreading further north in the riverwards like Kensington.

Mo Rushdy of the Riverwards Group said, "We are bringing in a 40-million dollar development that will generate 173 million dollars in economic stimulus to the city. "

"There is still open-air drug dealing and open-air prostitution and opiate encampments a few blocks away, but the mayor has just signed an edict to start the cleanup process," added Lawrence McKnight of the Riverwards Group.

The Kensington Courts complex is going on 5-acres of what was a used car lot, more than 150-units for $200 to $400 and lots of retail space.

They've already completed and sold 30 new rowhomes along adjacent streets.

The spanking new building right next to the old housing stock has long-term residents worried about gentrification and the fear they'll be driven out.

Mike Woodward, a 50-year resident said, "I think people who are struggling to live are targets for them move in and take their property."

"Even if we manage to stay in the houses we own, the taxes alone are going to kill us," said Geraldine Klass of Kensington.

City Hall says there are multiple programs for fixed-income homeowners to keep their taxes at current levels and avoid sheriff sale.

A thorough transformation of East Kensington is 5 to 6 years away according to an expert on city real estate trends.

The Kensington Courts development he says will be a major anchor in the master plan to take back this neighborhood.
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