The renovation of Orinoka Mills, one of the last behemoths of textile manufacturing in North Kensington, will signal a powerful first injection of investment in a struggling area.
Constructed in the early twentieth century, Orinoka Mills serves as an icon of long past boom times and at the same time the potential for change. Located on the “wrong” side of Lehigh Avenue, property vacancy, high unemployment, and open air drug trafficking are perennial struggles for the area.
Orinoka Mills is strategically positioned to not just tell the story of Kensington’s industrial character, both its economic successes and environmental challenges, but also to begin the reversal of forty years of disinvestment -- by transforming into an ambitious mixed use development branded Orinoka Civic House.
The lower levels of the building will serve as the new home for NKCDC’s central offices. Having long served the areas of Kensington immediately south of Lehigh, this new affordable housing, administrative, and public gathering space will place NKCDC in the midst of its new target population north of Lehigh and ensure that the positive development on view south of the Avenue continues northward both in concert with and in service of its North Kensington community.
Orinoka Civic House is designed to be occupied by people who have proven a lifetime commitment to community activism and civic duty, with preference given to adults over the age of fifty who live nearby. Similar to other naturally occurring retirement communities in Philadelpiha towers, the building is designed to house mature adults with a desire to age-in-place in a secure community of like-minded neighbors.
PlanPhilly, July 23, 2014, "Pinning future for New Kensington on Orinoka Mills reuse"
Hidden City Philadelphia, October 28, 2015, "NKCDC Elevates North Kensington With Orinoka Civic House"