Temple leads community-driven environmental project in Kensington
Temple University received a federal grant to put towards cleaning up two post-industrial areas in the Kensington neighborhood.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put $200,000 on the table for the redevelopment project’s initial stage, which will be headed by Temple’s Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) over the next two years.
Cleanup and restoration are the key components. Project stakeholders have identified two brownfield areas — former industrial or commercial sites (often contaminated) that can be returned to healthy use.
CSC has partnered with the North Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) to identify the project sites: a former scrapyard at Frankford Ave. and Silver St., and another site between Kensington Avenue and Tulip St. Both brownfield sites run adjacent to the Lehigh Viaduct, a freight rail corridor located along Lehigh Avenue west of I-95.
“The project area exemplifies the cumulative detrimental effects of a formerly industrial neighborhood — a distressed community left behind with significant social, public health and environmental justice concerns. There are also striking public health concerns within the community, including lack of healthy food availability and accessibility to open space,” said Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, an assistant director at CSC who will lead the project.
Kensington — particularly the section known as “north of Lehigh” — is still home to a dearth of abandoned factories leftover from the neighborhood’s industrial past. While there’s been something of a renaissance happening south of Lehigh, the project area has only just started to redevelop.
This will be the first brownfield restoration in Kensington.
“Our focus is on stormwater management and sustainable placemaking,” Andrew Goodman, NKCDC’s community engagement director, told AL DÍA. Goodman highlighted his organization’s commitment to community input from Kensington residents.
CSC and NKCDC have teamed up on other community-led green design projects in surrounding neighborhoods, including vacant lot redevelopment and a stormwater infrastructure project at Memphis Street Academy.
Philadelphia has received $4.6 million to cleanup and restore its brownfields over the last 20 years, but the Temple grant is first of its kind given directly to a university.
The grant comes as part of the EPA’s nationwide Brownsfield-Area Wide Planning Program, which targets urban areas like Kensington where brownfields are impeding economic and environmental opportunities.
To get an idea of what to expect in the community, check out PlanPhilly’s report on the similar brownfields project in the nearby Port Richmond neighborhood.