Will more new housing give South Kensington a boost?
Blackstone Development wants to put up Liberty Square, a mixed-use building in South Kensington, between Thompson and Stiles streets and American Street and Germantown Ave. It’s a former industrial corridor that’s starting to get a lot of attention from developers, architects and realtors — and that’s exactly why neighbors are so concerned.
One of the most talked about issues from area residents is that Liberty Square would not be the only large-scale housing going up on the block. The approved Soko Lofts, once completed, will be situated just across the street with more than 300 units. “It’s something that is kind of a good thing and kind of a bad thing,” explains Leah Murphy, co-chair of the planning and zoning committee at South Kensington Community Partners. She’s also holds the title Senior Associate Urban Designer at Interface Studio, an urban planning firm that’s done some innovative work in the city. Murphy says she’s heard all sides of the Liberty Square argument.
“I think people are really excited to see more interesting development, but they aren’t comfortable with the level of density being imposed,” she says. “It’s all concentrated in one area of the neighborhood and over time the corridor can get extremely dense and change the characteristic of the area.”
But maybe that’s where the real issue lies — some would say the characteristic of a neighborhood like South Kensington could stand to change a little. Are residents so proud of their zip code that they’re overlooking the fact that this neighborhood could use some attention and maintenance? Then again, does South Kensington need two giant residential buildings in order to get that TLC?
Neighbors and other Philly residents are debating the pros and cons of an influx of residents. Liberty Square has yet to get at South Kensington Community Partners’ support, but Murphy tells us they will “come to some point of clarification about support or opposition, hopefully in the next couple weeks.”
“[Blackstone] came in at first with a 247-unit, six-story building,” says Murphy. “On the other side of Thompson you have two- and three-story homes, so you’d have a building towering over you. That’s one thing we really pushed back on and they came back with reductions.” The new plan is a five-story building with 191 units.