[Updated Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m. to indicate that a vote has yet to take place.]
South Kensington (or Old Kensington, to some) has historically been part of the city’s industrial heart, but lately developers responding to the residential boom in neighboring Northern Liberties and Fishtown have been giving those old industrial buildings heart transplants such as the one the current home of Spencer Industries on Mascher Street is about to get.
The city, it appears, hasn’t abandoned the notion that South Kensington can still be home to industry completely, though. American Street, an extra-wide north-south thoroughfare between Second and Third streets that still has a freight railroad line running down its middle (long abandoned, alas), is still mostly zoned industrial, and there’s still a Keystone Opportunity Zone designation intended to lure job-creating businesses running the length of the street in Kensington.
Yet most of these industrial-zoned lots remain vacant, like the one Streamline Solutions, a local development firm that specializes in residential projects, purchased on the east side of American Street, extending from Jefferson Street almost all the way to Oxford Street. Surrounding the lot are mostly residential structures, including a row of houses on the block’s Oxford Street side that clearly predate its I-2 zoning.
This would seem to be a great place to build new residences. But the lot’s zoned industrial, which means a variance would be required to build any residential structure.
Which led Streamline co-CEO Sean Frankel to propose a novel solution to the problem: Build townhomes on the back half of the lot and a “factory” of a different sort on the front.
“I spoke with our architects, and they said it was zoned for industrial and manufacturing,” he said. “I asked them if there was anything else we could do on the site.”
And that’s when Frankel had his epiphany: “I said, ‘We’re going to manufacture tech jobs.'”