Residents share development ideas at NKCDC’s community design meeting

Residents gathered around five different tables — one for each property — and provided input regarding what they would like to see at each site.

[Clockwise] Temple student Natalie Lee and Kensington residents Linda Finello, Michael Morgan, Luke H. and Ethan Mimm provide input about what they’d like to see on the vacant property at the corner of Somerset and Aramingo.

Residents from the Kensington neighborhood, with the help of representatives from Rowan and Temple universities, provided input on how they’d like to see five unused former industrial properties — called “catalyst sites” — utilized at New Kensington Community Development Corporation’s Community Workshop Wednesday night. Property №1 is located on the corner of Trenton and Somerset streets, property №2 on the corner of Somerset Street and Aramingo Avenue, property №3 on the corner of Lehigh and Frankford avenues, property №4 on the corner of Amber and Seltzer streets, and property №5 is located on the corner of Trenton and Auburn streets. Each location was designated a brownfield by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA defines a brownfield as “a property [in which], the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse… may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

The EPA has awarded a $200,000 grant to Temple University and Rowan University to plan and design new ideas for the brownfield areas in Kensington. The development ideas, which include input from community residents, will then be passed along to future potential developers.

Residents gathered around five tables — one for each property — and provided input regarding what they would like to see at each site. An additional sixth table was provided to overlook the entire brownfield area. Students from Temple University were present at each table helping facilitate the ideas of residents by drawing them on a blank map of each respective brownfield area. After about an hour or so of taking in suggestions from neighbors, each group presented its ideas to the others.

“[Assistant Professor of Planning in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability at Rowan University Mahbubur R.] Meenar, responded to requests for proposals and the $200,000 grant from the EPA to do a brownfields-wide area plan,” said Lynn Mandarano, associate professor and chair of Temple’s Planning and Community Development Department. “The idea was the market is changing very quickly and so let’s think of some win-win solutions [for developers and community members] for the developments at each of these sites.”

Andrew Goodman, NKCDC’s director of community engagement, was present at the meeting, taking in the residents’ ideas.

Property №1’s group, whose focus was the brownfield at 2201 E. Somerset St., wanted to see restaurants, new housing development, a grocery store, a space for outdoor events and a swimming pool on the property. The property is an entire city block. The slab of land is already home to an unused building, which takes up about half the block. The remainder of the block consists mostly of trees and open green space.

“I know there’s a lot of concern for places for your kids to play, places for your dogs to walk,” said Billy McGraw, who presented his team’s ideas. “You have to do something with this space and bring the community together in order for the city to reinvest into this space.”

Property 2’s group wanted to see a park go on the current location of 2750 Aramingo Ave., which is owned by Conrail. The park would feature a variety of paths, benches and trees, but not much more than that. Residents who live nearby want to keep it a quiet space without too much noise.

“So the idea with this space…it pretty much started itself up by being multi-surface green space,” said presenter Ethan Mimm. “It’s a nice quiet space and [resident and group member] Miss June [de Vries] was very adamant about the neighborhood staying quiet and I totally agree.”

Property №3’s group, whose property was 2001 E. Lehigh Ave., wanted to see a playground, a running/walking track, artist studios, a spot for outdoor movie screenings and a gardening space at the location.

“Our vision for this space is to have a multi-purpose area community center with some artist studios and some spaces for them to sell their goods,” said presenter Rana Sindhikara. “Then it will lead into a larger outdoor gathering area where people can…go running or walk on a track. It can also be a gathering space for people to do yoga or watch outdoor movies.”

An unused green space and building currently sit on this property.

The group representing property №4, located at 2740 Amber St, wanted to see a mixture of high-end housing built on the northern side of the block and affordable housing on the southern end of the block. There would be a shared courtyard between the two developments.

“I know developers are here and they want to make a buck,” presenter Katie Drake said, referring to the high-end housing, “but we also have a lot of people in this neighborhood who have lived here for a really long time who are getting priced out so I feel like we still need to keep space for them.”

There is currently an abandoned building on this property.

Group №5 represented the property at 2838 Trenton Ave. On that property currently sits an unused, 26,000 square-foot building. The group wanted to see the building turn into a spot for the youth and the elderly to gather, with a focus on the arts.

“The focus is art,” said presenter Joe Campbell. “You can get your kids in there, you can get [the] elderly in there. The elderly can teach the younger generations on it when the artists come in utilizing the workshops.”

The group also mentioned a skatepark, a horticultural rooftop and an indoor community garden as potential ideas for the building.

Group 6 was involved in designing the entire brownfields region. Throughout the region, they wanted to see trails, public spaces and murals.

“Connectivity was a big piece of what we talked about,” said presenter Matt Ludwig.

Meenar said “maybe within the next two months” some of the design ideas will be put together with the help of the students and professors at Rowan and Temple. He said they’ll be finished by the end of summer, and residents can keep up-to-date on the project by connecting with NKCDC on social media.

You can learn more about the project by visiting the project’s website.