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When Tia Hall first laid eyes on the vacant industrial building, she wasn’t sure it was the right location for an alternative high school.
To Hall, executive director of Big Picture Philadelphia, moving El Centro de Estudiantes to Kensington felt risky at first. The charter school program, which operates during the day and at night, had never been in the neighborhood. She wanted her students and staff to feel safe.
The response was definitive.
This is where we feel most safe, they told her. This is home for us.
“And so despite my reservations, I knew that it was just time to step off the ledge,” said Hall during a recent tour of the building.
The future home of the El Centro Big Picture High School in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, a 20,000-square-foot building that was once a textile factory. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
The former textile mill is getting new life thanks to a partnership with SHIFT Capital and Voyage Investments, two companies with ties to Kensington. The massive building will be transformed over two phases, the first of which is slated to wrap up in January, when Big Picture plans to welcome its first group of students to the school’s permanent home.
By then, the 93-year-old property will be unrecognizable.