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Kensington Community Food Co-op Announces Location at Intersection of Frankford and Lehigh

May 8, 2014 Category: PeopleUncategorized

The Kensington Community Food Co-op announced on Sunday that its storefront will be located at 2654-2672 Coral Street at the intersection of Coral Street and Frankford and Lehigh avenues. The announcement came after three years of searching for a location and nearly six years of organizing the co-op, which included building a membership base and forming bylaws.

The store will be 4100 square feet and have 18 private parking spaces. The location is currently occupied by a vacant restaurant and bar, which is 3-stories tall and seemingly quite old. Painted copper siding wraps around the building just above the first floor.

Nearby residents remember the restaurant, O’Reilly’s, as a nice place to eat that was often frequented by off-duty police officers. Jeff Carpineta, head of the co-op’s site search committee and professional real estate agent, said he believes the bar closed in 2012.

Lena Helen, president of the co-op, told Generocity before the announcement of the location that parking, access to the community, street visibility, and proximity to a commercial corridor were all factors in choosing the location. Many of these factors seem to have been addressed, as the store is located near the center of Kensington — making it accessible to the entire neighborhood, regardless of income — and it should be clearly visible at the busy intersection of Lehigh, Frankford and Coral.

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Contractors are now working on cleaning out the space

But with two busy roads and few nearby retail locations, will the co-op cater more to drivers than pedestrians?

Co-op member Kevin Frasco, 25, who lives around 10 blocks from the location, predicts that around half of the current members will access the store by car and the other half by walking or biking. Overall, Frasco sees the location as a positive gain for the area.

“I think its a good location because it is accessible by so many different neighborhoods,” Frasco said.

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Carpineta said that the co-op was advised to find a location that was between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet and had accessible parking. Otherwise, he said, the store could not fit a full variety of products, and customers would also be unable to make large shopping trips.

He also noted that new commercial development on Frankford could soon transform the corridor.

“The building has frontage facing Frankford Avenue which is being redeveloped as a vital corridor with new businesses opening all the time, now progressively marching north of York towards Lehigh,” Carpineta said.

As of now, this development has not reached Lehigh.  The combination of a corner gas station, tire shop and freight rail overpass also give the intersection of Lehigh and Frankford a desolate, auto-oriented feel.

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Frankford Avenue looking north past Lehigh

But the co-op is not just banking on the further revitalization of the area. It also hopes to engage the low-income communities north of Lehigh and in the surrounding blocks.

“The site sits at the border of a few communities. The area north of Lehigh still has hardship but there are beautiful people there who care about the health of their neighborhood and their families,” Carpineta said.

Sandy Salzman, executive director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, said she was happy to see the storefront located as far north as it is, closer to low-income communities. She also noted that the co-op was considering a location in Fishtown, and that she prefers the current location.

But overcoming local perceptions of the costs of healthy, local food could still be a challenge. The nearby competition includes a Save-A-Lot, a discount supermarket chain, just three blocks away.

“There is a myth that all healthy food is the priciest food, that may be the case for certain items, but we’ll have choices for people who are careful with their dollars,” Carpineta said.

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Man carrying bags from Save-A-Lot, located three blocks away. 

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