Coming: Review Of Proposals For Development Of Kensington Banks

 

Industrial Trust, Title & Savings at left, Ninth National Bank at right, Front and Norris Sts. | Photo: Peter Woodall

Industrial Trust, Title & Savings at left, Ninth National Bank at right, Front and Norris Streets | Photo: Peter Woodall

It’s down to two bids for the right to redevelop the two historic former textile banks at Front and Norris Streets in Kensington. The Norris Square Civic Association, which reacquired the properties in July, will hold its board meeting next Thursday the 12th to vote on the proposals for development.

A group of board members will also interview representatives of the two real estate development firms submitting proposals on Monday, Maria Sourbeer, Norris Square’s real estate director, told Hidden City.

Elon Development and Onion Flats each submitted responses to Norris Square’s RFP in July. A third proposal, jointly submitted by Postgreen Homes, Equinox, and Interface Studio Architects, was also reviewed by the board’s Real Estate Committee but removed from consideration based on the criteria in the RFP.

Among the criteria listed in the RFP for awarding a bid were quality of proposed design, economic impact, availability of financing, and the ability to develop without a zoning variance. Preservation of the façade of the buildings was also included as a point of consideration, but would not be the deciding factor in selecting a proposal.

Onion Flats is located in a former carpet mill on Norris Street cater-corner to the banks. The firm has been active in its designs for “passive houses” which consume minimal amounts of energy. Onion’s award-winning Belfield Townhomes, in the Logan neighborhood, is the first certified passive house building in Pennsylvania.

Elon is affiliated with Allied Construction and the Altman Group of Companies, based in Fort Washington. Allied has a long portfolio of construction projects in and around Kensington, including the Pradera Homes, developed by Associación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) at 7th and Berks Streets, and the St. Boniface Homes, developed by Norris Square Civic at the site of the demolished 1872 church.

Tim McDonald of Onion Flats declined to discuss his proposal for the record, but has stated his admiration for the architecture of the banks–Ninth National and the Industrial Trust, Title and Savings Company–designed by the firm of Hazelhurst and Huckel in the 1880s.

Francis Vargas, Elon’s vice president, said that they would look at the possibility of preserving the façade of the buildings, although reuse in their existing state did not appear feasible. However, Vargas added that they were “aware of the strong presence of local neighborhood groups in Fishtown and East Kensington, and the neighbors on Hope Street” who successfully appealed the decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment to allow the Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) to raze the buildings and build low-income housing.

Industrial Trust, Title & Savings Company | Photo: Peter Woodall

Industrial Trust, Title & Savings Company | Photo: Peter Woodall

“The bidding has been a fairly open process and we understand that we’ll need to work with everyone on this,” said Vargas, a Kensington native who was formerly at APM.

The properties were returned to Norris Square after WCRP cancelled plans to build housing. The ZBA’s decision to allow WCRP’s all-residential development at the site had been based on a hardship argument that the Front Street corridor was too depressed to sustain commercial business. That decision was overturned in Common Pleas Court in July, meaning that any new development that does not include a commercial use would have to return before the ZBA for approval.

About the author

Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.

Send him a message at: motecw[at]hotmail[dot]com



3 Comments


  1. The buildings are gorgeous and should be saved given their historic and architectural value they have. The restoration and repurpose of these building will contribute to the growth of Front Street with safety, and commercial revenue similar to what is happening one block over on Frankford Avenue. I love those ladies from the Hope for a Better Living RCO on Hope St!!!

  2. The fact that onion flats is bidding gives me great hope that we\’ll see a wonderfull future for these structures .
    Not the demo and death that WCRP wanted to bring upon those buildings. They will soon return to being assets to the community.

  3. At this point, we would be happy to see even just the facades incorporated into a new building, as any new facade would certainly not have the history, the architectural significance and/or the quality to withstand a similiar abandonment. However, its obvious that the Norris Square Civic Association does not greatly value the irreplacable architecture that has defined the neighborhood for the last century or so if they would even consider proposals that abandon reuse in some way….

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Real Estate Brochure For Vacant School Sounds Alarms in Germantown

Real Estate Brochure For Vacant School Sounds Alarms in Germantown

March 19, 2019  |  News

Neighbors rally around Germantown High School after a real estate listing revealed potential redevelopment plans. Emily Birdy Busch has the news > more

Piecing Together The Lost History Of Wirt & Knox

Piecing Together The Lost History Of Wirt & Knox

March 14, 2019  |  Vantage

Rob Masciantonio tracks down the elusive origins of an abandoned factory in Strawberry Mansion > more

Interior Of 30th Street Station To Be Considered For Historic Designation

Interior Of 30th Street Station To Be Considered For Historic Designation

March 11, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has this roundup of local register nominations on the agenda at the March meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

Op-Ed: Streamlining The City's Preservation Procedures Would Benefit All

Op-Ed: Streamlining The City’s Preservation Procedures Would Benefit All

March 8, 2019  |  Soapbox

In this opinion piece Kenny Grono shares his perspective as a general contractor and remodeling specialist with a few ideas on how the City can untangle the red tape that undermines historic preservation > more

Industrial Design Firm Has A Knack For The Clickety-Clack

Industrial Design Firm Has A Knack For The Clickety-Clack

March 5, 2019  |  Vantage

Theresa Stigale takes us inside the headquarters of Oat Foundry at Frankford Arsenal where its split flap signs are winning the hearts of customers around the globe > more

Searching For Frankford Creek Along A Winding Trail

Searching For Frankford Creek Along A Winding Trail

February 28, 2019  |  Vantage

Sharon Barr goes looking for one of Philly's oldest tributaries via the Frankford Creek Greenway. What she finds is an urban trail struggling to connect with its namesake > more