Reporting Pat Loeb
By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A large factory-turned-artist-studio in Kensington has been ordered closed because of numerous fire and building code violations.
Viking Mill has been a landmark in the neighborhood’s effort to re-invent itself.
The closure is likely to set those efforts back.
Tenants were drawn to Viking Mill by low rent and freedom to design their own space.
“I remember the pitch kind of being, come on in, there are no rules, just don’t cover the sprinkler heads,” one tenant said.
The tenant, who asked not to be identified, says the artists who set up studios were young and, perhaps, naive and created spaces without concern for building codes.
Then, in April, there was a fire in one studio and the fire department alerted Licenses and Inspections to possible safety hazards.
Spokeswoman Rececca Swanson says the Department inspected each space, “there were numerous fire code violations and there was also construction and electrical and mechanical work that had been completed without permits.”
Swanson says the city is working with the owner but bringing the building up to code will be a huge task.
Viking Mill owner David Hirsh declined the opportunity to comment.
The tenant says Hirsh is optimistic about re-opening but he doesn’t share that optimism.
Many of the other tenants have already moved out and are looking for new space.
His equipment was too bulky to move in the one week notice he had but he expects to eventually relocate.
He says the closure is a setback for the artists but also for the whole community.
The tenant says, “anybody who’s ever been there I think can attest to the life that’s one that block right now that’s grown up over the last few years and it’s going to come to a halt. Unfortunately, not everybody followed the rules but this is really going to put a dent in the local economy over there.”
The New Kensington Community Development Corporation declined comment.