High Class

Educators receive discounts at Oxford Mills' mixed-use apartments in South Kensington

Oxford Mills, a residential and commercial development, is a renovated former dye works factory. | Images courtesy D3 Real EstateLafeesah Waalee’s fell in love with the exposed brick of Oxford Mills apartments in South Kensington, but what sealed the deal for her was the opportunity to live among a community of educators—and at a discounted rate. 

Oxford Mills, a residential and commercial development billed as “an urban oasis” for teachers and nonprofits, offers living and working space to educators and “progressive, culturally-minded Philadelphians.”

Waalee, 22, says the idea of living in a community of educators was a selling point. “I’m very excited about it because of all the resources that are right here,” she says. A graduate of John Bartram High School who earned a degree from Lincoln University earlier this year, Waalee just embarked on a two-year commitment with Teach for America (TFA) as a math specialist at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School. She already knows at least four other TFA teachers living at Oxford Mills. 

Philadelphia-based D3 Real Estate Development and Seawall Development Co. of Baltimore restored and renovated the former dye works factory, parts of which date to 1873. D3 Real Estate principals Gabe Canuso and Greg Hill say they transformed one of the two brick buildings into 114 apartments, and the other into 36,000 square feet of office space for nonprofit organizations and other tenants.

On the commercial side, Oxford Mills’ tenants include TFA, which moved its regional headquarters there over the summer, Education Design Studio, Artwell and Education Plus. Also housed at Oxford Mills are Glory Yoga and Gryphon Coffee Co., which are open to the public as well as tenants. Communal amenities for commercial tenants include conference rooms, a kitchen, break room and a courtyard sitting area. Oxford Mills held its grand opening in July, and in August, residents began moving in. More than half of the apartments are earmarked for teachers, and those working in the Philadelphia region get a discount on their rent. The one-bedroom units rent for $1,295 per month, or $925 to $975 per month after the teacher discount. The two-bedroom units go for $1,995 a month, or $1,495 to $1,595 after the discount.  

Residents have access to an on-site resource center, fitness center, parking and electric car-charging stations. A program of social events, and indoor and outdoor common areas, encourage after-hours interaction. The apartments’ industrial design of exposed ductwork, 14-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and plenty of light are a draw, too.

Ben Finkelstein, 30, who started teaching English at ASPIRA Olney Charter High School this fall, says he found the community aspect of Oxford Mills very appealing. Living in an apartment building with teachers, “represents an opportunity to create a community dedicated to positive social change in a field that desperately needs rethinking,” he says.

The Philadelphia School District is supportive of Oxford Mills’ teacher-friendly policies and its potential to create a vibrant community of educators. Paul Kihn, Deputy Superintendent of the School District, says Oxford Mills’ education focus piqued his interest, prompting him to meet with the developers to learn more.  

Oxford Mills’ supportive atmosphere for teachers is an example of what the school district would like to see established on a broader level to attract and retain talented educators, Kihn says. “It fits squarely with what we believe needs to be happening in the city.”