An affordable housing project at the site of two historic Kensington banks appears to be dead in the midst of intense neighborhood opposition, including an ongoing legal appeal by nearby residents.
Hidden City sources indicate that the Women’s Community Revitalization Project has returned its low-income housing tax credits to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and will not pursue development of the Nitza Tufino Townhomes at the corner of Front and Norris Streets, which had been in the planning since 2010.
The project would have resulted in the demolition of the Ninth National Bank and Industrial Title, Trust Savings Company, which have sat vacant for 30 years. They were last in use as a PNB branch, and were acquired by the Norris Square Civic Association in 1989. As we reported in January, a diverse set of activists have been opposing the demolition of the banks, which they see as architectural and historic assets of the neighborhood.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency announced its award of the tax credits in March, following the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s granting, last August, of a variance for 25 housing units at 1942-58 North Front Street.
The project had support from the Norris Square Civic Association, which sold the title of the property to WCRP but still retains the mortgage note, and advocates of affordable housing who feared the spread of gentrification into the neighborhood.
The neighboring civic groups–Fishtown Neighbors Association and East Kensington Neighbors Association–strongly opposed the plan on the grounds of density, safety, and preserving the banks for commercial use along a commercial corridor.
Representatives from WCRP did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The ZBA’s decision had been appealed by two nearby residents and was set to be heard in Common Pleas Court in June. WCRP’s brief in the case was due next week.
It was not immediately clear if WCRP would hold onto the property or if ownership would revert to Norris Square Civic. Although the banks are listed in the Kensington Textile National Historic District, an absence of local designation leaves them unprotected from demolition.