With the future of the Germantown YWCA in jeopardy, and neighbors conflicted over future development of the building and its site on Germantown Avenue, Councilwoman Cindy Bass promised this morning to stabilize the structure, which has been damaged several times by fire.
Bass will assign $2.2 million in Neighborhood Transformation Initiative funds for the building’s renovation and weatherization. Bass’s office indicated this morning that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has set aside an additional $4 million for rehab of the property.
“When I took office in 2012, the question of what to do about the YWCA loomed large, as this building is an integral part of the neighborhood’s history,” she said. “And while we are still working towards a final answer, I am beyond pleased that we have endeavored to explore additional options. I am most impressed with the creativity of the ideas that have been presented thus far, and nothing less should be expected in and for Germantown.”
The Department of Licenses and Inspections recently completed an engineering report on the building. The investigation, with assistance of former L&I commissioner Bennett Levin, concludes that the building is structurally sound and does not need to be demolished. The Redevelopment Authority will issue a request for proposals this spring for development of the buildings. Bass stressed that the RFP will emphasize preservation and reuse.
This will be the Redevelopment Authority’s second RFP for the site. The first resulted in a proposal by a partnership of the non-profit Mission First and developer Ken Weinstein for subsidized senior housing. Bass rejected the proposal as not significantly transformative and without other options neighborhood residents began to fear the historic building would be demolished. After a public meeting in January, neighborhood residents and advocates pushed the Councilwoman to seek other alternatives.
“We have to be thoughtful and deliberate about development in Germantown-just as we have in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Nothing less will be acceptable,” Bass said this morning. “With the NTI funds I am committing to this project, it will help make the site more attractive to developers while protecting a vital part of our City’s history.”
Bass indicated that developers have approached her with ideas for market rate housing, offices, and retail and recreation uses.
I believe a more careful read of the press release from Councilwoman Bass will show that the total funds that will be earmarked for securing and preparing the property for market are $4 million, not a total of $6.2.
What has not been properly disclosed is that this building was purchased by the RDA with taxpayer funds of $1.3 million in 2006 but never used for the intended purpose. Allowed to become vandalized early on, and never properly secured after that, the city refused many times to remarket it was about to virtually give it away in a day done with very little transparency or advance notice.
The Independent Voice
Leaving it in its present shape is not the answer. Cleaning out the trash, putting in new windows where there was none, structural improvements to ensure the building stands, pointing the brickwork to ensure the brick walls do not collapse.
And even better, find committed people who are willing to make the building shine vice leaving it in its present condition!