Currently, the most profitable trend for developers is to convert Philadelphia's former industrial behemoths into residential properties. But Shift Capital
leaders Brian Murray and Matthew Grande say they're resisting the advice of most brokers with their massive MaKen Studios
project on I Street in Kensington.
"The first thing this area needs is jobs," not more housing, insisted Grande, Shift’s Chief Operating Officer, during an early August presentation to local organizations including Generocity
, Campus Philly
, Urban Affairs Coalition
and Flying Kite.
Shift Capital, "a real estate impact group" focused on urban revitalization through "shifts in environmental, social, and economic viability," is finally ready to "start talking to the greater Philadelphia community about what we’re doing," added Founder and Principal Brian Murray.
With a poverty rate nearing 60 percent and a lack of anchor institutions -- such as universities and hospitals -- Kensington relies on the innovation and collaboration of smaller groups like Impact Services CDC
and New Kensington CDC
In Shift’s upcoming MaKen Studios, former industrial space will be available for rent to interdisciplinary artists, small businesses and manufacturers. The project includes two massive buildings in Kensington’s Harrowgate neighborhood at 3525 and 3401 I Street.
Shift purchased the building at 3525 -- dubbed "MaKen North" (home of Jomar Textiles, Inc. until 2010) -- in December 2013 and "MaKen South," the building at 3401 (which includes 8000 square feet of space for the operations and distributions of Snap Kitchen
) in February of 2013. The latter building includes 25,000 square feet of south-facing open space, perfect for events overlooking the city.
The former Jomar building will house Shift Capital’s new offices (currently the company operates out of a space on Castor Avenue just south of the Erie-Torresdale stop on the Market-Frankford Line). Prospective tenants already on the docket include a woodworker, a metalworker, a photographer and a small-batch manufacturer. Grande estimates that renovations will be completed in November
Lease terms for the spaces will be flexible, he says -- they could span anywhere from one to ten years. Some makers and companies tour the half-finished spaces and want to sign on right away; others feel that they’d be ready within a few years.
Grande and Murray hope that MaKen Studios will be the perfect spot for a wide range of makers and small businesses, creating much-needed local jobs and taking advantage of the neighborhood’s accessibility to Center City: under twenty minutes on the Market-Frankford Line, and even closer to Fishtown and Northern Liberties.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Brian Murray and Matthew Grande, Shift Capital