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Kensington Avenue needs some help. See: the opioid epidemic, blight.
Shift Capital, the social impact developer bringing “community-driven real estate” to the area by redeveloping old industrial buildings, wants to hear from you and anyone else on how to bring the commercial corridor — specifically from Lehigh Avenue to Erie Avenue — back to life through its Kensington Avenue Storefront Challenge.
The developer launched the challenge last month and has since been working to both spread the word of the effort and encourage anyone to send in applications for their concepts on the “reimagining of Kensington Ave as the safe, innovative, inclusive heart of the community.”
Here’s how it all works: You have until Wednesday, Nov. 1, to send in an application that details your concept for redeveloping one of 14 unused properties currently owned by Shift Capital (nine are brick-and-mortar buildings and five are lots). Shift Capital will announce finalists on Nov. 17, who will then present their concepts via Shark Tank-style pitches to a panel of judges sometime in December. Up to 10 concepts will then receive funding and support to get their projects rolling.
Got an idea? Because as Maria Sourbeer, VP of development at Shift Capital, said, the team really wants to know about it, so go ahead and download the application here.
Sourbeer said they’ve seen a good amount of interest from a variety of people and business owners at the challenge’s launch event and open house viewings — daycares, gyms, food trucks all want to move into a permanent space. They decided to open up the challenge to anyone, in addition to making the application as flexible as possible, to encourage as many different ideas as possible for what Shift Capital hopes will be a corridor that will reactivate jobs and activity throughout the neighborhood.
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But keeping community betterment at the forefront of the challenge remains a key element to the effort, with the panel of judges that will be selecting the final winners comprised of those who would be impacted the most by whatever new tenants take over the properties.
“It was really important to us that we have people who were familiar with Kensington,” Sourbeer said. “We wanted local residents and local businesses and local leaders. We did accomplish that.”
She added that Shift Capital, as well as its various collaborators, is thinking about issues like gentrification, something they’re hoping to curtail by providing long-term leases to the challenge winners so they stay more committed to the neighborhood in the years to come.
In addition to one year of free rent, the list of rewards and services from Shift Capital and its partners on this challenge all seem to encourage commitment:
- Up to $10,000 toward the interior improvements of the retail space from Shift Capital
- $5,000 toward installing signage and storefront features, then 50 percent of costs thereafter up to a total of $10,000 per storefront (or $15,000 for a corner store) from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce
- $5,000 toward the cost of installing exterior security cameras from the Department of Commerce
- Technical assistance from New Kensington Community Development Corporation and Impact Services which includes licensing and permitting assistance, navigating city departments and resources, etc.
- Participation in the Kiva Zip loan program
- Potential to negotiate ownership of property at end of lease
“I think everybody we’re working with is interested in having a safe, beautiful, clean neighborhood,” Sourbeer said.-30-
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