The former Quaker City Dye Works at Front and Oxford Streets — which sprawled out into two neighboring buildings — is getting a second crack at life as Oxford Mills, a 114-unit affordable-housing apartment building with commercial space for nonprofit organizations. Educators are eligible for a 25 percent discount on rent.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the community-oriented project is in South Kensington, just above all the hubbub of where Fishtown meets Northern Liberties. For years now we’ve watched that area become more developed and more welcoming to artists and other creative types and, along with that, more popular with renters and first-time buyers willing to bring money into the neighborhood. The change is pushing out in every direction, and now it’s South Kensington’s turn to get a makeover.
“We’re basically breathing new life into [the buildings] from top to bottom,” says Gabe Canuso of D3 Real Estate Development, who's transforming the property with his business partner, Greg Hill. “We’re trying to keep as much of the historic fixtures as we can, like the floors and the walls,” says Canuso. But aside from some of the structure staying intact, the whole building, down to its inspiration, is something new.
According to Canuso, it’s the “brainchild” of Donald and Thibault Manekin of Seawall Development in Baltimore. The father-son team is responsible for Miller’s Court and Union Mill — both are in Baltimore and function as residencies that provide discounted rent for teachers and space for nonprofits. “The goal is to help teachers,” Canuso says, “but in addition we’re working with nonprofits tenants to minimize how much they spend on amenities. There are three communal conference rooms that tenants can sign out and use when needed, rather than each organization having a private conference room — which is just more space to pay for.” One notable tenant will be Teach for America, who will call Oxford Mills home to their regional headquarters.
“They wanted to take this model to Philadelphia,” says Canuso of the Seawall team. We can expect to see the building come to life when it opens its doors next summer.
Between the two brick buildings is an old cobblestone street that Canuso aims to revitalize and turn into an “urban oasis.” Along with that each building will have its own courtyard for outdoor eating and lounging. Inside, the one- and two-bedroom apartments come as standard, one-level units or bi-level lofts.