Gtown/Mt Airy activist Yvonne Haskins breaks down how the City’s messed-up process for selling public property endangers two abandoned local landmarks.
Hey Folks…I haven’t posted since the election, taking a respite to think about things. We lost the election, but, by God, we’re not LOST. Your voices were strong, resolved, not intimidated. OK…I hear the echoing “I told you so,” but let me do my long-winded way to re-direct you to our BIG win…the possibility for a game changer…YOUR being focused on the Nitty Gritty of how we’re being governed.
This post invites you to respond … I mean it … respond with gusto to an issue we can do something about…
DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC BUILDINGS IN GERMANTOWN. A recent Inquirer article reported on a possible pay-to-play or under the table land development scheme on development of public buildings in Darrell Clarke’s District. We face a similar situation in Germantown.
Here is the NITTY-GRITTY ON TWO IMPORTANT PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
TOWN HALL and THE OLD YWCA are under the control of Cindy Bass and not being developed.
The Old YWCA: 5 years ago, Cindy Bass blocked proposed development of apartments for Seniors. Being adjacent to Center in the Park, it is an ideal proximity for the YWCA to be converted to affordable units for seniors. But no! Cindy felt Germantown had enough low-income units.
The then director of the Center (Lynn Fields Harris) and Germantown United (Garlen Capita; Emaleigh Doley and moi) fought hard to support the proposed development, but Cindy blocked that developer, Mission Housing, who in a display of genuine competence is currently building a beautiful $60 million dollar LEED-certified facility in West Philly with residential, retail and community services. They’re also a local company that has been renovating Philly’s old buildings into affordable housing complexes since 1989.
Here in Germantown, though, Cindy’s hand-picked developer for the YWCA first of all wasn’t local (they’re based in Ohio). But second, they didn’t seem nearly as qualified. Scanning KBK’s website for projects, there’s nothing even near the scope of what Mission Housing is doing.
But thanks to Cindy, PRA approved them to purchase the building for just $65,000 with a plan for market-rate housing — KBK has proposed 600 sf units at $1300/month! Show me how the neighborhood favors this kind of development over Mission Housing’s. You’ve gotta be kidding me! But it might not matter, anyway: five years later, KBK still hasn’t found the financing to start construction. And the lovely old YWCA building sits empty and abandoned at the edge of Vernon Park.
But wait. The PRA still owns the YWCA. Someone needs to tell KBK, Time’s up, kids, move along! Let’s get Mission Housing back in here, we could use senior housing plus first-floor art and community space.
CINDY – WE NEED YOU TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN NOW!
Town Hall: For over 20 years, this fantastically beautiful building has lain vacant. I personally took a developer through Town Hall 4 years ago who was ready to develop it. You probably don’t want to hear the plan because it’s heartbreaking what we missed out on: full restoration/renovation, beer garden on the roof, restaurant under the rotunda, rear parking garage with a state-of-the-art station for the 14th District PPD). State money was even offered in the deal but, obviously, nothing materialized.
More recently, the developer of Bok Technical inquired with strong interest in Town Hall, but she was discouraged by City Hall contacts. Why? Because Cindy Bass is blocking any open bidding process on Town Hall. In the past, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) was commissioned to market Town Hall and did so for many years. Recently, a personal source at PIDC advised me that Cindy Bass is specifically blocking any marketing of Town Hall.
How do we feel about this? These are OUR BUILDINGS – publicly-owned and paid for with our taxes. Why should Cindy Bass, who has not one scintilla of development experience, be the arbiter, the final word on who develops, what gets developed, how, when…?? Is that “community driven?”
WHAT SAY YOU? Should these buildings be back on the real estate block for competent bidders? How are we going to make this happen?
How can we not, now that we’re wise to the Nitty Gritty of public land development? The City’s process for selling our lands is egregiously flawed. We’ve got remarkable buildings sitting empty, while people seek jobs, housing, education, recreation, business…
In Germantown, we risk losing our historic architecture and displacing entire communities – but we can fight this. YWCA and Town Hall are two battles we can win if we dog our District Councilmember and demand she do the right thing.
Let Cindy know that it’s not OK to sell our public lands in closed-door deals that shut neighbors out of the process – and profits. If developers are going to cash in on Gtown’s “blight,” they better come prepared to uplift the community, not displace it.
CONTACT HER VIA PHONE, EMAIL or OFFICE:
215-686-3424/25 (City Hall) or
215-685-9182/3 (Germantown) or
email her “Friends of” page
District Office 4439A Germantown Avenue
Phila PA 19144
REACH OUT: Email Yvonne at email@example.com or comment below with your opinions, questions, links and rebuttals. Submit your own feedback & editorials to firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure you click on the links in this post for even nittier, grittier details.
COMMENTS FROM FACEBOOK (this post was originally shared 11/23/19 on the Changing Germantown Facebook Group):
Shoshana Bricklin What should a group of concerned citizens be doing at this time? I ask with all sincerity because this corruption and neglect is so disrespectful to the community.
Yvonne B. Haskins Thank you, Shoshana. First and foremost…post, post, post…like you just posted. Be bold about what we know to be wrong, neglect, illegal. Send lots and lots of emails to Cindy Bass and post demands on CindyBass.org and on her Facebook page that she declare that the disposition of ALL PUBLICLY OWNED BUILDINGS in the 8th District will be handled expeditiously with the competence, fair, and COMMUNITY DRIVEN bidding process handled by the Redevelopment Authority and the Land Bank.
No pay to play…no under the table favoritism….no prerogative (except to push through the Ordinances that are driven by the professional agencies with community input). We need to demand that she produce an inventory of all of the vacant properties owned by the City, PRA, Land Bank, etc…and publish it on her website. Every developer and CDC should have easy access to this inventory.
Cindy should announce that she will no longer hand pick developers. She should allow the Mayor’s professionals to do their jobs without fear of her retaliation. Let PRA to do its job and take back control of the YWCA…period! Join us in lobbying the State to assign economic development funds to Town Hall. Lobby the Mayor to support a state-of-the-art, combined construction of the 14th District, a parking garage and the restoration of Town Hall.
Lisa Jo Epstein Didn’t know that the developer of Bok was interested in Town Hall, or that there was another developer too.
Lindsay Ellen Metzker Lisa Jo Epstein Not to mention that Germantown could support something like Bok. There are plenty of artisans and small businesses in Germantown and Mt. Airy that could use that sort of space.
Yvonne B. Haskins Town Hall is perfect space for Makers and Artisans!! I see economic, cultural, and fun outcomes!
Adrienne O’Hanlon Again, I say ArtSpace should have a crack at developing Town Hall. (At the Tannery they put in live-work spaces and parntered with the city’s HUD to ensure the units were part of affordable housing)
Florence Buckley Councilmanic prerogative is a fancy invite to corruption. A successful strategy that must stop.
Lynn Fields Harris Florence Buckley I am cautiously optimistic that the newly elected council persons will fight the status quo!!??
Diane J Tull I am disgusted at the way Germantown is so disrespected in this way. Two significant buildings being vacant and left deteriorating. Why? Why? Why? Because we are used to being abused. We must stand up. Stick together. Stop politicians that exploit power over citizens who appear not to care; rendering themselves powerless over corruption and under the table deals. Let’s make Germantown better together. We don’t have to take this!!!!!!!!
Jill Saull What action? Do what? Appeal to whom? How? How do we stop Councilmanic Prerogative?
Yvonne B. Haskins Jill Saull How about we approach this with AUTHORITY? By “we,” I mean a small skilled/representative group that includes preservation experts, architects, engineers, union contractors… etc. I would be willing to gather information from City contacts to determine how to gain access to the building.
I would look for these professional volunteers to evaluate conditions and estimates of costs. This would start as a no-frills, sans-community politics endeavor. Then, we seek support from Dwight Evans, Art Haywood, Kinsey, Kenney, and Cindy. Following that, we get cooperation from the PRA on soliciting bids, or we find a developer who puts a bid on the table that we support.
I think these professionals coming before a community meeting of 300+ to present the proposal and get endorsements backed with state and federal financial prospects will overpower any prerogative From City Council. What do you think? Anyone else have thoughts…? We have to start now…to act with high expectation … no cliques or B S. We can do this if we have many oars pulling together. Let’s hear it!
Paula Paul I would love to see senior housing in YWCA bldg, let me know what next steps are.
Kristin Haskins Simms We also need GERMANTOWN United to focus on this. Maybe start with appointing board members who really understand development, historic preservation and not afraid of Cindy Bass, the City or even the community.
Yvonne B. Haskins Kristin Haskins Simms I agree!! “CDC” includes the word “Development”… Emaleigh Doley…Julie Stapleton Carroll… Please lend your voices here. Are you ready….able to pick up on the struggle we face? To assure “community driven” development?
Elisabeth Nickles I wish you were our councilwoman.