Warming Up in 19125

Emerald Street Urban Farm | Photo: Peter Woodall

Various indicators of Kensington’s evolution, besides increasing property values:

  • New Kensington CDC’s garden center at Frankford and Berks, which opened in the 1990s to serve as a plant supplier for all the new community and side gardens created from vacant lots, closed this year. Why? Vacant land, once in enormous surplus, is now shrinking and the need for acute measures–guerilla gardens and privatizing side lots–is falling. In any case, says NKCDC executive director Sandy Salzman of vacant land, “some of it people love and so we have to decide what stays and what doesn’t.”
  • The Columbia Avenue connection, which links the “Big Green Block” to Penn Treaty Park, continues with Bryan Hanes’ light towers and light-generating form-fitting walls for the I-95 underpass to be installed by PennDot.
  • Pop’s playground at Huntington and Trenton Avenues will be part of a linked skate-boarding pathway.
  • Enrollment at the new Kensington CAPA High School is creeping over the 400 student capacity, already causing changes in the way the spaces in the building are used.
  • NKCDC deputy director Shanta Schachter says the school is teaching a lesson on building quality. School District officials wanted grates on the windows and threatened they would be installed as soon as one of the school’s windows became broken. Well, two windows are broken. The cause (not vandalism): the August earthquake. No grates coming.
  • Salzman, who grew up at Frankford and Palmer, says all the neighborhood’s Catholic schools have closed but Visitation BVM at B and Huntington, which is not what she would have predicted 10 years ago. Why has this school survived? Easy access to the El for parents on their way to work in Center City.
  • 23 new businesses opened last year in 19125, according to Schachter.
  • Community leaders have turned their sights to the neighborhood around the Somerset El station–widely considered the city’s #1 drug corner. This is Rocky’s neighborhood, kicked in the teeth a little too many times. And yet a vision is emerging.
About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

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