It was less than an hour after the official start time, there was still guacamole and chips left on the trays and yet there were already nearly 100 of the young Millennial set drinking cans of Miller High Life and traipsing through the first open house of 3rd Ward, the 27,000 square-foot Kensington expansion of the Brooklyn-based coworking and maker space.
The connected two-building complex, at Thompson and 4th streets in Kensington above Girard, is an impressive remodeling of an abandoned warehouse-style structure, in the midst of rowhomes and near a senior living center.
The 3rd Ward open house, which was part of Philly Tech Week and featured ‘Light Graffiti’ in which attendees created small magnet-powered lights and put them on nearby fire hydrants and the like, was an interesting test.
How will such a large facility impact a rather residential neighborhood, which has so far had what seems like a surprisingly small physical impact for its proximity to the Piazza at Northern Liberties? For comparison, the 3rd Ward Brooklyn facility in Bushwick is on a decidedly industrial stretch of Morgan Ave off Grand Street. The similarly sized expanded NextFab Studio in South Philadelphia is on the heavily commercial Washington Avenue and the nearby Crane Arts building sits on the wide and sparse American Street. For those spaces, there are no adjacent residences to take much offense to new crowds visiting the facility for big events or its daily uses.
3rd Ward Kensington is different.
That said, one cloudy day last fall, Technically Philly waited outside the 3rd Ward Brooklyn garage door in Bushwick and saw a steady stream of work trucks and the occasional hipster-adorned bicycle without much collision of the two, so perhaps the impact will be minor. But this reporter thought a moment about the neighboring rowhomes as he stood among a dozen young people smoking and laughing outside the Kensington 3rd Ward entrance Saturday.
Whatever the impact, the space is impressive. (Find other photos here.)
From the outside, the complex looks like two distinct buildings but inside, the two have merged. The main south building will feature a restaurant and administration, in addition to signature maker facilities, which will spill over into the larger north building’s first floor.
On the second floor, high-gloss wood floors and large rooms lay bare, luring tenants with its purposeful tease of post-industrial remains — brick and aging wallpaper and gummy residue from a time long since passed. A beautiful open-air deck completes the second floor, with a view of the meeting of South Kensington, Northern Liberties and the foothills of Fishtown.
Follow the bare steel staircase to enter the building’s top third floor and be greeted by an arched 15-25 foot ceiling covering a large open floor plan, surrounded by glass-heavy private rooms and quiet pods.
It has everything the Brooklyn version has but bigger, newer in a far more desirable neighborhood. Given the continued expansion of the colocation phenomenon in Philadelphia and the still red hot growth of the riverwards, the 3rd Ward story hasn’t begun yet. Not until it starts trying to fill seats and bring them from the Girard El stop and surrounding neighborhoods.
Now the opening is near imminent: staff were handing out flyers seeking tenants and coworking members.