It’s easy to imagine the sprawling 19th-century brick mill on South Kensington’s Howard Street as just another high-end apartment complex for twentysomething professionals, the newest outpost on Philadelphia’s ever-advancing frontier of gentrification.
Situated a few blocks north of Fishtown‘s hipster bars and BYOB food shrines, Oxford Mills preserves the kind of authentic architectural details that make young, and not-so-young, renters swoon: high ceilings, huge windows, thick wooden beams. The amenities hail straight from the wired generation’s handbook. Plans call for an office incubator that rents desk space by the day and a public cafe that spills onto a sliver park furnished with outdoor tables and a fire pit. You know, for those cool, late summer nights when you want to linger with friends.
But Oxford Mills, which will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday, ventures down an uncharted path. It is being built by a private company, D3 Real Estate, which intends to market the units as affordable housing to teachers, especially novices working in programs like Teach for America, and others who fall into the growing category known as “the working poor.”
Newly minted professionals with college degrees are not generally seen as the target demographic for low-income housing, a term that still brings to mind no-frills residential complexes built for the chronically poor, elderly, or disabled.