When it comes to East Kensington, we could probably navigate the area walking backwards with our eyes shut at this point, as we keep coming back to this busy little area over and over again. And here we are once more, as there seem to be plans afoot for 2019-53 E. Boston St., the current home to Viking Mill Artist Studios and Urban Axes. This area is so busy, in fact, that we covered the northern part of this block early this year, where there are plans to turn a vacant auto body shop into 108 units plus artist studios designed by T + Associates. This section of the neighborhood has come on as one of the biggest development hotbeds in the city in recent years.

Looking down E. Boston St. shows the brick building with plenty of patina
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A map from our last visit, with the property highlighted in blue (and conveniently pre-labeled!)
View of the north side of the lot from our recent visit

A zoning notice from this week shows that the low-rise building along E. Boston St. will soon meet the wrecking ball. One might think that this could be related to a zoning notice from a few months back which indicated that 77 units were planned at this address. And in a manner of speaking, the two permits are indeed related. The taller building on the site, home for years to the Viking Mills Artist Studios, will remain and get converted to residential use even as its smaller neighbor gets torn down.

The building we are focusing on today is on the left
Building on the left will be demoed
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Building on Hagert will remain, murals will go

Rather than 77 units here, we will instead see a total of 178 apartments. As we said, the existing five-story building is sticking around, and it will be joined by a new construction six-story building, where the smaller building currently stands. The project will include retail/industrial space in the basement and on the first floor of the newer building, and will also contain 34 parking spots in the middle of the two buildings. Chatham Bay Group is the developer behind this project, and they’re working with DesignBlendz on the architecture side. Check out the renderings:

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New building will have a contemporary look
The taller building is staying, though the murals are likely to go

We find ourselves a bit torn about this project, we must confess. On the one hand, a sizable residential project is a definite step up in terms of being the highest and best use for this property, much as we love tossing axes. On the other hand, it’s a definite bummer that we’ll be losing a relatively intact, if stubby old industrial building, further chipping away at the fading industrial character of the neighborhood.

Speaking of the character of the neighborhood, it’s also a real loss that the artist studios are shifting to apartments after all these years. It’s a common theme that artists come into rougher neighborhoods because they can get more space for less money. In some situations, like this one, the market catches up with the artists and they find themselves pushed further afield. It happened in Northern Liberties, it happened in Fishtown, and now it’s happening in East Kensington. Port Richmond, you appear to be on deck.