Developers seek zoning change for mill redevelopment in Kensington

Last month, Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a zoning bill that would allow for an abandoned mill building in Kensington to be redeveloped into apartments and commercial space.

The property, formerly Albion Carpet Mills, at the corner of Jasper and Hagert streets near the York-Dauphin Station on the Market-Frankford line, includes a small handful of buildings in various states of maintenance. The developers, organized as Hagert Street Lofts LP, are hoping to turn the largest of those buildings into 44 one- and two-bedroom apartments, with a fitness center and common area. They are also considering a coffee shop or some other commercial use.

The plans for the commercial space are intentionally vague at this point, said Daryl Rothmund, one of the developers. They’re seeking industrial-residential (IRMX) zoning for the property, which is currently zoned for medium-impact industrial use, not only because it would fit in well with the surrounding area but because it allows a flexible range of uses. Rothmund said that flexibility could allow for input from neighbors to shape the final plans for the project.

“[The property] was going to be remapped IRMX some time,” Rothmund said.

The developers are hoping to speed up the remapping to fit the timing of their project. Assuming all the permitting goes smoothly, Rothmund said, they hope to start work in June and have the development completed within two years.

The East Kensington Neighbors Association voted 41-0 to support the project in January, according to the Fishtown Star. Preliminary plans call for 30 off-street parking spaces.

Hagert Street Lofts already owns one of the smaller buildings on the site, at the corner of Jasper and Letterley. Rothmund said that settlement on their purchase of the larger building is scheduled for April 1st.

David Fecteau, a city planner for the area, said that the Planning Commission will consider the bill at its next meeting, on March 17. He said the proposal conforms with the East Kensington Transportation and Community Development Plan, and that the city’s overall comprehensive plan generally encourages the reuse of vacant mill buildings.

Kensington has its share of old industrial buildings. Albion Mills is just a few blocks from the Buck Hosiery building, an empty building which burned down in 2012, killing two firefighters. Last month, a building around the way from Albion Mills caught fire, interrupting subway service.

Meanwhile, the New Kensington CDC is still trying to raise money for its planned redevelopment of Orinoka Mills, half a mile north of the Albion Mills site.

Developers are seeking to have the property, which was built in the 1880s, placed on the National Register of Historic Places. If it’s confirmed, they could be eligible for Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

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