For a few minutes on Thursday morning, chatter swirled again outside Germantown High School’s dark-green doors.
Nearly a year after budget cuts shuttered the 99-year-old building, residents and developers mingled inside the school’s front courtyard before embarking on a two-hour, open-house tour.
Some simply came to explore and snap pictures of the landmark’s paint-chipped guts.
Several alums wanted to walk down memory lane.
Ken Weinstein was one of the only participants who showed up to size up the hulking, four-story building for a potential bid.
Among 20 up for bids
GHS is one of the 20 buildings the School District of Philadelphia — with the help of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) — has put on the auction block as it continues to stare down another financial crisis.
Robert Fulton Elementary, which sits a stones-throw away across East Haines Street, is also part of the portfolio.
Weinstein already owns a handful of large properties in Germantown and, like many in the community, sees GHS and Fulton as must-fill properties.
“Germantown can’t continue to improve as long as these buildings sit vacant and deteriorated,” he said. “So, we have to find an adaptive re-use.”
The district hopes the buildings will fetch a few million dollars for its barren coffers; PIDC has listed the pair for $4.55 million.
The market may or may not make that figure a reality.
Tyler Bradley, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, said the district would be lucky to get its full asking price.
“It’s going to cost a good eight figures in order to bring this building up to par. I think that, realistically, what’s going to have to happen is they’re going to have to accept a very nominal figure for this building,” said Bradley who, other than Weinstein, was perhaps the only other potential buyer who attended the no-frills, more community-minded tour.
Either way, a number of residents desperately hope that someone will want to make GHS an educational hub once again.
For community leaders like Vera Primus, losing central Germantown’s only high school was heartbreaking.
“[The students and staff] worked hard to bring the school up, and they worked hard to see the changes and then they just snatched the rug from underneath their feet,” said Primus, who leads the GHS alumni association, after walking through a darkened cafeteria.
Similar feelings flared inside of Rev. LeRoi Simmons as he strolled through the school’s third-floor library.
Simmons worked with fellow members of the Germantown Clergy Initiative to raise funds for books, computers and other materials.
“It’s like touring a cemetery — a place where untapped potential was thriving and growing and is now gone,” said Simmons. “There were children looking at a future and this is a past of destruction.”
Other ongoing efforts
The Germantown High School Task Force — a grassroots group — is working to bring a voc-tech school to the site. Providing a traditional K-12 curriculum has also been floated.
Weinstein has agreed to help the effort if he ends up acquiring the high school.
PIDC is expected to make a series of recommendations to the district in mid-June.
The district will then make its own recommendations to the School Reform Commission for approval.