In Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood at the corner of Allegheny Avenue and Kensington Avenue, an intersection widely publicized as the center of the city’s gun violence epidemic and largest open-air drug market, three community-serving organizations – The Sunday Love Project, Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Color Me Back program, and RAWtools Philadelphia – opened street level storefronts inside SHIFT Capital’s 3200 Kensington Avenue mixed-use property. Each organization is looking to recenter the focus of the intersection by providing services and programs built for local residents and families.
3200 Kensington continues SHIFT’s commitment to the communities of Kensington and Harrowgate. SHIFT spent five years developing, designing, and delivering 3200 Kensington with the vision of creating a meaningful community asset that provides quality living spaces for residents and safe storefronts for neighborhood-centered organizations. SHIFT’s work at 3200 Kensington and throughout the neighborhood supports the solutions-based approach to revitalizing Kensington, led by its residents, community-based associations, and its local community development corporations – NKCDC and Impact Services.
“These organizations and longtime residents of the neighborhood are all doing restorative work for the community,” says Gregg DiFabio, SHIFT’s Partner, President of Development and Construction. “We know how important and vital this block and intersection are to the neighborhood. Our goal, in the spaces we create, like 3200 Kensington, is to provide a home for meaningful businesses and organizations that serve the communities we serve.”
The Sunday LOVE Project
The Sunday LOVE Project opened its first Greater Goods grocery store at 3200 Kensington to provide free food, hygiene, and household goods to local families in the Kensington and Harrowgate neighborhoods. Inside, residents shop using a point system to “spend” on fresh produce and pantry staples that reflect the cultural makeup of the neighborhood. Residents are able to shop twice a week during Greater Goods’ normal operating hours (9 am – 12 noon, Monday through Friday).
With the help of their organizational partners, Small Things Philly and Sharing Excess, and community partners, Sunday LOVE serves about 80-120 people daily at their Greater Goods store. Margaux Murphy, Sunday LOVE’s founder and Executive Director, who recently received the prestigious Philadelphia Award for her commitment to improving food security for local families and youth, grew the Greater Goods concept during her nearly decade of operations in Kensington.
“I’m a longtime Port Richmond resident who has personally witnessed the loss of life due to the tolls of drug addiction. I have seen families and children who struggle to find healthy food whether it’s due to financial hardship or because of a lack of options,” says Murphy. “I opened Greater Goods in Kensington because I wanted to open in the heart of the neighborhood and serve residents directly by providing food for people who may otherwise go hungry.”
The Greater Goods store also employs residents to help manage the store and provide assistance to customers. Murphy adds, “I started Greater Goods to provide jobs for neighbors to help them get a fresh start and build stability in their lives.”
Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Color Me Back Program
Mural Arts Philadelphia opened two studios at 3200 Kensington to house Color Me Back, its same-day work and pay program, and to create local employment opportunities to support mural preparation.
Color Me Back is an innovative initiative that combines participatory art-making and access to social services in a unique model that offers individuals experiencing economic insecurity an opportunity to earn wages. The initiative is managed by Mural Arts’ Porch Light community wellness program in partnership with Erik Hirsch and Margaret McAllister, the City of Philadelphia, the Scattergood Foundation, the Sheller Family Foundation, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), and Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity (CEO). Mural Arts’ studios at 3200 are run by a team of trained artists and assistant artists from the community. Recovery Advocates and/or Certified Peer Specialists from DBHIDS work alongside the team and with program participants to link them with support services, including social and/or behavioral health services and potential opportunities for longer-term employment while working in the program.
Artists in the Color Me Back program have completed nearly 10 large mural projects throughout Philadelphia. With its most recent mural, the program has hired 10 people every week to work on completing the project that will be installed in Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood.
“We are ecstatic that our Color Me Back program, along with other esteemed local organizations dedicated to community service, will have a studio at SHIFT Capital’s 3200 Kensington Avenue location,” said Jane Golden, Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. “We believe our work of fusing participatory art-making and access to social services is a moral imperative, and we look forward to partnering with community members to address critical issues such as improving overall health and well-being, creating economic opportunities, and making the community a safer place to work and live.”
3200 Kensington welcomed RAWtools Philadelphia, the first local chapter of RAWtools, a national organization dedicated to resolving conflict through relationships, dialogue and training, instead of violent weapons, and devoted to ending gun violence by taking donated guns and turning them into beautiful art, useful tools, and symbols of peace.
RAWtools Philadelphia’s workshop at 3200 houses a reflection space to honor people’s tragedy endured due to gun violence as well as people’s stories of survival and resilience; a memorial space to honor the lives lost to gun violence; and a workspace and wood shop where local decommissioned guns and bullets are repurposed into jewelry, art, and functional household and garden tools by way of blacksmithing using an onsite forge and kiln. Visitors are welcome to share their stories and memories of lives lost and life’s revival, as well as shop RAWtools Philadelphia’s hand forged products, with profits from sales going to nonprofit organizations focused on preventing suicide and ending gun violence.
RAWtools Philadelphia is led by Shane Claiborne and Katie Jo Brotherton. They were born in the South (Katie from NC and Shane from TN) but fell in love with Philly, and with each other, and have made Philadelphia home for the past two decades. Shane is one of the founders of The Simple Way, and is an author, speaker and activist. Katie is an educator, community organizer, and a trained blacksmith.
“We’re here at the K&A [the intersection of Kensington and Allegheny Avenues] because 20 of the blocks with the most deaths in Philadelphia are within walking distance from our shop,” says Claiborne. “The work we do is anchored in Kensington for the love of our neighborhood and our goal to end gun violence. Losing 110 lives every day doesn’t have to happen. Violence is not the answer. Guns are not the answer. By taking guns off the streets and recrafting them into tools and products that cultivate life, we are adding to life, not taking it away.”
“3200 Kensington is a success on multiple levels. From the joint execution between our teams, with SHIFT Builders–our in-house construction team, our development, leasing, and property management teams. To our community partnerships and our financial and investing partners. And to the rigor, diligence, and care our team put into, not only the delivery of the property, but also, and more importantly, finding the right organizations to serve as anchor tenants for the community,” says Brian Murray, SHIFT’s Partner, CEO.
3200 Kensington was made possible by SHIFT’s financing partners, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). LISC Philadelphia and PHFA were instrumental in providing funding for the entire project, including 16 new apartments (25% are required to be at 50% AMI and 100% are required to be at 80% AMI) above the commercial storefronts.
Please visit 3200 Kensington Avenue for information. If you’d like to connect with the Sunday LOVE Project, Mural Arts, and RAWtools Philadelphia, please see their information below.