38-Unit Mixed-Use Plan on Front St. in Kensington Moving Forward?

A rendering for the project at 1600 N Front St. released in 2018

It was only about 5 years ago that development pioneers began building under the El on Front St. in Fishtown and Kensington. Trying to rent out an apartment within feet of the roaring train line did not seem like an easy task. Slowly, projects were built. Renters appreciated the close proximity to public transit and to other neighborhood amenities. Developers began to take advantage of the CMX-3 zoning along Front St. and built larger projects. Now, we’ve seen multiple large mixed-use project rise under the El and we are even seeing luxury condos sell next to the elevated tracks. Who would have thought?

The warehouse at 1600 N. Front St.

Back in 2017, we saw a zoning variance granted to consolidate multiple parcels and build at 5-story, 38-unit, mixed-use building at the site of a low rise warehouse at Front and Oxford St. In August of 2018, we saw a very similar lot consolidation zoning permit pulled, and are not sure whey it was necessary. However, the long-time industrial user continued to occupy the warehouse and no changes happened at the site. Then, the property was sold in April of this year for $2.1 million, which led us to believe that we could see development proceed.

On October 10th, we saw a permit pulled to seal the sewage lateral. This permit is usually a precursor to demolition. Sure enough, an orange demo announcement appeared on the building last week. We imagine we will see the 38-unit project constructed after demolition is completed. The original project also called for 12 parking spaces, which we find unnecessary so close to the El. We imagine the drive aisles will be on Hope St., as part of the property does go street-to-street. We are not sure if the new owners will be redesigning the project, or will stick to the same design that was presented a couple of years ago.

To add a layer of complexity to this, when we walked by the warehouse for pictures, we saw that the industrial business was still operating within the building. We are not sure if they will be moving out soon, or if a demo permit was pulled to prevent a historic nomination. Nonetheless, we believe this project will eventually proceed. The property’s federal qualified opportunity zone status should motivate the owners to develop the project.

We really wish this project could be taller and denser. It will not be as tall as some of the other projects we are seeing rise on Front St. as this lot is zoned CMX-2.5. The other taller buildings we are seeing erected are on CMX-3 parcels. We see no reason that there shouldn’t be 8+ story buildings on Front St., directly next our city’s most desired form of public transportation.

How do you feel about this project? Should it be taller and denser? What type of retail business do you think would do well in this location?

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