Jumping for Germantown

Developer Ken Weinstein celebrates the “homecoming” of Philly Office Retail to Germantown.

Philly Office Retail’s “homecoming” party, Sept. 2019. Photo credit: Philly Office Retail

Thirty years after he moved to Germantown, and 25 after he moved out of it, Ken Weinstein is back.

In a manner of speaking, that is: Northwest Philadelphia’s largest real estate developer still makes his home in Mount Airy. But the firm he founded shortly after moving to Germantown, Philly Office Retail, is calling Germantown home once again.

Weinstein celebrated the move with a big homecoming party at Philly Office Retail’s new headquarters at 4701 Germantown Ave. on Sept. 19. About 250 people joined Weinstein in celebrating the move and touring the new facility. The new home office is on the top floor of the former Schaeffer School.

Schaeffer School (2013). Photo credit: The W Rockland St Project (https://rocklandstreet.wordpress.com/)

In addition to the company headquarters, the lower two floors of the 1876 structure house a co-working space for Jumpstart Germantown affiliates.

Weinstein made the move in part because the center of gravity for his development firm has also shifted to Germantown’s southern end. The move allows him to keep closer tabs on the progress of the multimillion-dollar Wayne Junction redevelopment project. “We are focusing a lot of our efforts on revitalizing the Wayne Junction area, so it was a natural fit to have our offices close to where we are focusing our efforts,” Weinstein says. So far, he says, the redevelopment project is proceeding according to plan.

The Wayne Junction Campus, a former Catholic school at 4811 Germantown Ave. that once housed the Germantown Settlement Charter School, was the first piece of the puzzle to be put into place. A $4 million restoration turned it into office space for 14 businesses. Two buildings on Berkeley Street also already have tenants. Philly Bread Company and the Philadelphia Woodworking Company occupy the building at 4530 Germantown Ave., at the corner of Berkeley, and FourFront, a digital marketing firm, is ensconced at 137-43 Berkley St.

Joining FourFront as neighbors in that building will be Attic Brewing Company, the Germantown-based craft brewer, and Deke’s Bar-B-Que from Manayunk. Attic recently moved its brewing equipment into the building, and both businesses should be up and running by the end of the year.

Wayne Junction complex

The one Wayne Junction project that isn’t moving along smoothly is the Wayne Junction Diner, slated to be installed on the empty lot next to 137-43. Weinstein explains, “When the city demolished the four-story building that was on the site, it did not remove the rubble, so we have eight feet of unstable soil on the surface. If we want to build anything on that site, we need to remove the rubble and fill it with clean soil first.” Weinstein says he is still mulling over his options for that site.

The grand opening of the Philly Office Retail headquarters also raised money for a more colorful piece of the project: seven murals that Mural Arts Philadelphia will paint on buildings in the Wayne Junction area. The murals, which together will cost $150,000 to install, “will help beautify the area and make it more appealing,” he says. The opening raised the final $30,000 needed for the project to proceed.

The one other Wayne Junction project Weinstein has announced is a 32-unit apartment complex in the former Max Levy building. He says he is still arranging financing for that. “In the first phase, we will spend about $20 million on Wayne Junction revitalization,” he says.

You read that right: this is just the first phase of the larger Wayne Junction redevelopment project. Weinstein says he is almost ready to announce a second phase of projects, but before he does, “we want to make sure that what we have going succeeds first.” One thing he did say is that the second phase will include new construction, a first for Philly Office Retail, which to date has only done rehabilitation and adaptive reuse projects.

Entrance to Max Levy building. Photo credit: Jeremy Fountain https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremyfountain/7980022995/

All of this also marks Weinstein’s returning to his roots. Weinstein and his wife moved to Germantown after getting married in 1989 and lived here until 1994. As he commuted from Queen Lane station to his Center City job, Weinstein also started looking for properties to fix up on evenings and weekends. His first renovation project was located in Germantown.

And Weinstein also has a hand in even more redevelopment in Germantown thanks to the Jumpstart program, which he started in 2015. To date, the developers’ boot camp has trained 625 residents, most of them African-Americans and women, to become their own rehabbers, and another cohort of 65 just began the nine-week training course in mid-October.

The co-working facility is slowly attracting members, but Weinstein says he has been surprised by the demand for its meeting rooms. “We have a training room that holds up to 50 people, a conference room that holds up to 12, and a main room that holds up to 200 people, and we’ve been getting constant calls to use that space,” he says. “We’ve rented it out several times since the co-working space opened. I can’t say I saw that coming.”

For more info on coworking and the Jumpstart program, visit jumpstartgermantown.com/co-working.

About Sandy Smith 3 Articles
Sandy’s interest in journalism stretches all the way back to high school, and he’s been scribbling away ever since then, either in the field or in its hired-gun cousin, media relations. He currently runs the Real Estate & Home channel at Philadelphia magazine's website, phillymag.com. You'll find his column on trends in real estate and design in the print edition. Cities and the built environment float his boat, as does rail transportation, and he’s written about all of the above for Philadelphia-area media and beyond. His work has also appeared in Next City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Hidden City Daily and several other regional publications. Sandy is a Kansas City native who currently lives in East Germantown. Follow Sandy on nwlocalpaper.com and social media -- Twitter: @MarketStEl Facebook: WriterSandySmith

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