When other Philadelphia streets disappear beneath autumn leaves, Kensington Avenue – which runs beneath the elevated portion of the Market-Frankford Line – rustles only with the sound of trash. The streets bustle with shady activity and packs of police officers loom sporadically, turning their heads when small parcels of drugs pass hands on the corner.
But the story of Kensington is not unique. Other neighborhoods, such as nearby Fishtown and Northern Liberties, were once home to similar problems. In recent years, younger generations and artistic types have moved in, bringing with them trendy nightlife and small businesses. This begs the question whether Kensington will ever gentrify, and what that might mean for those who live there.
Kensington is home to more than 50,000 Philadelphians, according to demographics published on the Philadelphia Inquirer website.
The neighborhood’s booming textile industry, once housed in historic buildings, such as the Beatty’s Mills Factory, has since faded into a distant memory. These days, at least 20 percent of people in Kensington are unemployed and more than 46 percent are living below the poverty line, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Though Kensington’s heavy presence of drugs, violence, and prostitution make it seem unlikely to undergo gentrification, low-income housing for artists have begun to open.
Buildings like the Coral Street Arts House are catering to those who work in fine arts, dance, theater, photography, writing, music, spoken word, and graphic arts.
A number of locals report their landlords have begun buying up properties in anticipation of a real estate boom. Others still, are quick to say that Kensington is too far gone with crime and violence to ever be a safe place to live.
With this blog, I hope to illustrate Kensington by sharing the stories of those who live there and what they believe the future holds for their neighborhood.