March 18, 2015 – 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 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.