Consider HOT Olde Kensington, Philadelphia for Your next Move!

by Rana WaxmanApril 6, 2018

If you are looking for that start-up vibe, Olde Kensington is one of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods that is slowly getting a facelift. Tucked away between Northern Liberties (north) and Fishtown (west), this distinct section of Kensington is going from warehouse to coffee house and condo. With other kinds of redevelopment in the works, this area of the city is one to watch or give more thoughtful consideration for a next move.

Where is Olde Kensington?

Olde Kensington is roughly situated between Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Front Street, W. Girard Ave. and N. 5th street. Considered part of the Lower Northeast section of Philadelphia, Olde Kensington is about 2 miles from Center City (downtown).

As with many neighborhoods in Philly, the boundaries are fluid. Some realtors attribute this to how land is developed and marketed. Others attribute it to the Front Street divide that creates two Kensington’s. One closer to Fishtown, the other to Ludlow and Northern Liberties.

Olde Kensington Then and Now

Olde Kensington has roots in colonial Philadelphia, when, in 1730 a wealthy provincial councilor named Anthony Palmer purchased the land. It was to be a mirror of upscale London, with regal sounding street names like Hanover, Prince (Girard) and Bishop (Berks).

However, its proximity to the waterfront and rail lines lent themselves more to manufacturing and for a while Olde Kensington was quite the hub. As that shifted, many of the factories and warehouses were left vacant or were demolished, leaving the lots unfilled. Until recently.

Making Advancements

The process of regeneration and swift renewal started in the 2000s when people started looking for more affordable spaces and lofts. The creative, trendy crowd was drawn in by some of the earlier developments like the Crane Arts Building. And the development hasn’t slowed down, it has sped up.

A recent study by Next City ranked the district as one of the neighborhoods making the greatest advances in Philadelphia in terms of crime, household income, population, poverty and home prices.

To this point, Kensington has seen one of the biggest increases in median one- and two-bedroom apartment rents from the winter of 2017 to the winter of 2018. Estimates by Zumper have the number at 17%, which is slightly lower than Pointe Breeze (22%) and Mill Creek (21%).

If this sounds like gentrification, you are onto something. A 2016 report from the PEW Charitable Trusts entitled “Philadelphia’s Changing Neighborhoods” Northern Liberties/Fishtown was listed as one of the areas with the most gentrification.

Olde Kensington’s New Construction

Recently, Olde Kensington’s industrial heritage is making way for newly built row homes and re-builds. On some streets, old brick facades open up into modern residences and what Curbed Philadelphia calls “adaptive reuse projects.” They cite the Umbrella Factory on 5th and Montgomery Street that is under renovation and will soon house studio, one- and two-bedroom units, a rooftop pool and fitness center.

Other areas have worked from the ground up in favor of contemporary design and materials.

Inside, prospective homeowners are treated to amenities: the latest appliances, granite countertops, central air, a roof deck, rain shower, and finished basement. Some units come with access to a designated parking spot, while certainly more expensive units have an indoor garage.

More Space for the Buck

Despite rising rents, Old Kensington’s make-over is appealing to prospective homeowners. For one, it offers the opportunity to own new construction. Also, the chance to own a property with significantly more space for less money than in the downtown core.

For instance, it could cost about $500,000 – $550,000 plus for a newly built townhouse in Old Kensington. You might get from 2300 to 3000 square feet, an upscale kitchen, 3+ beds, and 2+ baths, plus parking. Anything new is less common in Center City, with some of the more recently constructed homes from 2013 selling for about $1,100,000 plus.

Overall Scores

Olde Kensington gets some pretty good overall marks by Walk Score.

  • Walk Score of 93 (Walker’s Paradise): In terms of daily errands, you don’t need a car and you are in the 10th most walkable neighborhood in Philadelphia
  • Transit Score of 74 (Excellent Transit): Transit is convenient for most trips via bus, and the Elevated train (the Market Frankford EL). Car sharing is available from Zipcar and RelayRides, and Old Kensington is about a 10-minute drive from downtown
  • Bike Score of 74 (Very Bike-able): Minimal bike lanes and flat terrain

What Makes Old Kensington Hot?

Old Kensington looks and feels like the Brooklyn of Philadelphia. It’s got a distinct personality though, and one with many faces.

ACTIVE: It is active, but prefers a specific palette that is low key, softly hued and ‘curated especially for the local community’ according to the curator of Lululemon’s boutique branch – The Local.

VIBRANT: With a start-up energy, locals love it for the vibrant blend of restaurants, vintage shops, cafes, galleries, bars and breweries. Per Philly Mag, some of the top 50 restaurants in Philadelphia are located up in Olde Kensington: Helm, Kensington Quarters, Stock, Cheu Fishtown, and Wm. Mulherin’s & Sons.

COMMUNITY: There’s a strong community pride going on and many raise families here, so you have to think it isn’t only trendy. Families want clean and safe streets and schools, healthy groceries and friendly energy. Perhaps as a response to this, you could hear many a conversation about how the area needs more garbage cans and a better-kept Front Street by the EL.

DESTINATION: Greg Root of Root and the new Suraya says his lively restaurant scene isn’t just attracting locals but is fast-becoming a ‘destination’ for Philadelphia foodies and diners. To his point, this corner of Philadelphia is innovative, with ideas that reflect diversity (like Suraya’s delicious Mediterranean cuisine and cardamom mimosas) or Front Street Café’s buffalo-style cauliflower.

CHOICE: Do you prefer the chill vibe of soft jazz or funkier beats? Head out to Gryphon Café for a low-key avocado toast or La Colombe’s headquarters for a really lively scene. There is certainly choice here in Olde Kensington, especially when it comes to cafes.

FUNCTIONAL: Riverwards produce, a renovated fire station is another great call on the part of developers. While the area has no Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or Target (YET?), one could argue that the smaller places are working to fill the need for fresh produce and easy-to-make meals. Buy a loaf of Lost Bread’s seed bread, stop in to pick up soup from Good Spoon and head to Cake Life for a slice of Mexican chocolate cake and your journey is on fire.

Is ‘up and coming’ for you? Check out hot Olde Kensington soon to find out.

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About The Author
Rana Waxman
Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana's versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.