Philly.com: City to invest $4 million in stabilization of Germantown YWCA; reissue RFP

City to invest $4 million in stabilization of Germantown YWCA; reissue RFP
The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Claudia Vargas
March 19, 2015

Turns out the Germantown YWCA is not about to crumble down. Not “imminently” at least.

The historic building, which has suffered various fires, severe vandalism and sat vacant for years deteriorating away, was deemed to be “unsafe” and not the most severe of the building stability categories, “imminently dangerous,” Councilwoman Cindy Bass said Thursday.

The building had been deemed imminently dangerous in 2012. Last year, the Redevelopment Authority issued a Request for Proposals for redevelopment of the building. The only proposal submitted was for low-income senior housing, which Bass rejected… Read the full story at Philly.com.

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MAJOR DEVELOPMENT: Councilwoman Bass uses NTI Funds to Support the YWCA

Major development! Eight District Councilwoman Cindy Bass has announced that she will use $2.2 million in Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (“NTI”) funds to stabilize the historic Germantown YWCA building. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority is also providing additional funds to rehab the property, totaling approximately $4 million of investment, as reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Councilwoman Bass also revealed that the YWCA building is NOT imminently dangerous, as was wildly purported in recent months, a fact confirmed by a new report issued by L&I and a group of private consultants who assessed the building.

In her letter, Councilwoman Bass addresses the rising community concern about development in the neighborhood. She writes:

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.

It’s fair to say that is something the Friends to Save the Germantown YWCA can stand behind this statement.

The Germantown YWCA building was abused, neglected, and then threatened with demolition, all under the watch of our city government.

As we urged in our petition to Mayor Michael A. Nutter – signed by over 700+ people in just a few short weeks – we recognize the historic significance of the Germantown YWCA as an icon of American history and civil rights. Its physical presence in the Germantown Avenue business district reminds us everyday of this neighborhood history.

Congratulations and thanks to all who took the time to speak for this building and preserve it for future generations with a use that will contribute to the vitality of Germantown’s “Town Center” and the adjacent Vernon Park.

– Emaleigh D.

The full text of Councilwoman Bass’ statement follows below:

“As the Councilwoman for the 8th district it is my job to advocate for every neighborhood, keeping in mind the unique perspectives of residents while recognizing community treasures.”

“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. 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.”

“While we await the Request for Proposals (“RFP”) to be issued by the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Authority (“PRA”) this Spring, I will continue to speak with local developers and discuss their bold and unique visions for Germantown.  Some of the concepts suggested thus far include full market-rate  condominiums and/or rental units, office space, retail options and recreation uses.  These suggestions have been presented both individually and  in various combinations, and I am excited about the possibilities ahead. We are seeking developers that have the capacity to move quickly, who have a plan to involve the community in the process, and who take into account the importance of environmental sustainability.  The RFP will be an open and transparent process, with an emphasis on preservation.”

“But beyond what goes into the YWCA, we must address the building’s condition and the recent concerns brought forward at a community meeting around this topic back in January.   As rumors began flying about the building’s condition, (i.e., instability), it was critical that we operated on the facts.  Working with the Department of Licenses and Inspection, and private consultants including former L & I Commissioner Bennett Levin, we got those facts which I am pleased to report.”

“I am happy to announce the YWCA is not imminently dangerous, and I have committed $2.2 million of my Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (“NTI”) funds to rehab the property and make the building safe and stable. With additional funds from the PRA, totaling approximately $4 million, we are able to provide the resources to protect and weatherize the property to prevent the building from any further structural deterioration.  We will also be able to provide the much needed ‘curb appeal’ to make the property more marketable, and aid in stabilizing the commercial corridor.”

“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.  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. The building is currently in poor condition, but with our subsidy from NTI and the PRA,  it will be saved and developed.”

Hidden City: Councilwoman Bass Commits Immediate Funds To Stabilize The Germantown YWCA

Councilwoman Bass Commits Immediate Funds To Stabilize The Germantown YWCA
Hidden City Philadelphia

March 19, 2015

With the future of the Germantown YWCA in jeopardy, and neighbors conflicted over future development of the building and its site on Germantown Avenue, Eight District 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.” Read the full story at Philly.com.

Photo by Bradley Maule via Hidden City Philadelphia.

NewsWorks: Philly fund for razing, rehabbing abandoned properties running out

Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative is down to its last few millions.

According to NewsWorks WHYY:

About half of the money left – $10.5 million – is sitting in accounts controlled by members of City Council.

As of this week, most had less than $1 million in available funds, though 8th District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and 1st District City Councilman Mark Squilla have well over that.

Bass, whose district includes Germantown, Mt. Airy and Nicetown, has about $2.28 million. Squilla, whose district includes Center City and Northern Liberties, has about $3 million.

What could this mean for Germantown’s YWCA building? Continue reading

OPINION: Developer Ken Weinstein says “I am done…”

Developer Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail sent this mass email about his redevelopment proposal for the Germantown YWCA that was rejected by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in January 2015. The email, published with permission, was written in response to a letter in the Independent Voice which is also included at the end.

Ken writes:

To those who care deeply about Germantown:

I am writing to respond to a letter to the editor that recently appeared in the so called, “Independent Voice” newspaper. I am done serving as a punching bag by those who say they are committed to Germantown but offer no practical solutions to the blight and poverty that permeates our community.

Connie Winters feels “certain that there is potential for development of the Y for residential units that are market rate” and that she has “direct experience in renovating and operating an historic building in almost the same location of the Y.”

I am tired of hearing that there are ways to save the historic YWCA building by offering market rate housing. If a developer, like Connie Winters, is out there who has a real, practical proposal to save the Y without using low income tax credits, show us now. It is put up or shut up time.

The YWCA is facing a wrecking ball. Don’t wait a minute longer!

When Mission First, Center in the Park and I responded to the Redevelopment Authority’s Request for Proposals, we did so to offer one alternative on how to save the YWCA and bring a needed resource, low income senior housing, to Germantown. I never expected Germantowners to accept our proposal without much questioning and discussion but I also never expected to be criticized by people who claim to have better ideas that work without putting them forward.

I told Councilwoman Bass last week that we are no longer pursuing our development proposal in order to give her some room to get proposals from the two other developers who are supposedly interested. But time is running short and if other proposals exist, now is the time to put them forward.

Thanks for listening and considering,
Ken

————————————-
The text of this letter published in The Independent Voice by Connie Winters was also included in Ken’s email.

Continue reading

Philadelphia Magazine & Chestnut Hill Local Talk Germantown’s YWCA

This week, both Philadelphia Magazine and the Chestnut Hill Local published stories about Germantown’s YWCA. Read on and share this news far and wide.

Neighbors Unite to Save Historic Germantown YWCA Building
The Friends to Save the Germantown YWCA group petitions Mayor Nutter to step in and save the Y.
Philadelphia Magazine

By James Jennings
Februray 27, 2015

While Councilwoman Cindy Bass remains locked in a battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and developer Ken Weinstein about the future of the Germantown YWCA, concerned neighbors have joined forces to help secure what happens to it now. The building has sat vacant for some time and its condition, rundown at best, is rapidly deteriorating due to neglect. Neighbors fear that it will be lost should it sit much longer.

The newly-formed Friends to Save the Germantown YWCA have a Change.org petition circulating the internet this week that calls for the City of Philadelphia to take charge and fund the necessary improvements needed to “stabilize” and  save the landmark building adjacent to Vernon Park.

“The petition is focused solely on preventing demolition, and stabilizing and securing the building for a future use. That is the common ground that co-signers share,” said Emaleigh Doley, a resident of Germantown and member of the Friends group, in an email. “Many of us have different opinions as to what should happen next but we know this building won’t exist as part of Germantown’s future if something is not done to protect it now.”

Continue reading

PA Historical and Museum Commission confirms YWCA’s status as a historic building eligible for preservation tax credits

Attached is a letter from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission confirming the YWCA’s status as a historic building eligible for historic preservation tax credits, as well as a full inventory for the Colonial Germantown NHL District.

Download or view as a PDF »
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Letter
Building Inventory – Addendum to Colonial Germantown Historic District

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Send a letter to Mayor Michael A. Nutter

Sign the petition on Change.org to City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and voice your support for this great building. 

Join me in recognizing the historic Germantown YWCA building in Northwest Philadelphia as an icon of American history and civil rights. Do your part to save this building from demolition and authorize the outlay of government funds needed to cover the cost of stabilization.

OPINION: Save the YWCA – accept the Mission First bid

The letter below from Solo/Germantown Civic Association RCO was sent to Councilwoman Bass on February 24, 2015 urging her to “reconsider and accept the Mission First bid” to redevelop the YWCA building into senior housing, in partnership with Ken Weinstein. The RFP was rejected by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in January 2015.

While many of the co-signers agree with this position below, some do not. Co-signers of the Save the Historic Germantown YWCA Building have found common ground and are fighting to ensure that the building is protected no matter the outcome with the PRA.

Members of Solo write:

Councilwoman Bass: Please reconsider and accept the Mission First bid received through PRA RFP. It would save the important historic Women’s Y 5820-24 Germantown Ave. and start market rate rental and commercial development next door to it. This is a positive start. Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by and allow the building to deteriorate anymore. There are many others to go on to save and redevelop in Germantown. Although we may all want something else saving the building through this development is POSITIVE. (As good neighbors perhaps Mission First would consider sponsoring a yearly concert in Vernon Park, contributing something to care, maintenance and improvements to the park and or some additional lighting and security.)

Solo/Germantown Civic Association RCO
Allison Weiss-Nettie Boykin-Pamela Bracey-Brenda Cherry

Friends of Vernon Park Statement on the YWCA Building

fovp-copy

Ruth Seeley, president of Friends of Vernon Park, has shared the following statement issued by FoVP on the condition of the YWCA building:

The Friends of Vernon Park are deeply troubled by the condition of the YWCA building on the park’s northern edge. For 8 years we have watched its disintegration with increasing concern. The building has never been adequately secured, and is a magnet for crime, trash and ugliness. We hope that it will not remain unsecured any longer, no matter what its future holds. Time is of the essence, especially in this extremely harsh winter with potential major ice damage.

The community deserves a full report from city structural engineers and a clear process for proposals for the future development of the building.

Friends of Vernon Park are willing to work with others to ensure a positive outcome for everyone in the neighborhood.