Adult daycare likely coming to former Germantown Settlement Charter School campus

 Ken Weinstein, developer of the former Germantown Settlement Charter School campus, could soon have a new tenant. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Ken Weinstein, developer of the former Germantown Settlement Charter School campus, could soon have a new tenant. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

An adult daycare center is now on track to become the newest tenant of a five-building complex in southwest Germantown.

For-profit Tori’s Garden of Eden wants to open the center at 4811 Germantown Ave., once the address for Germantown Settlement Charter School’s campus.

A lease is already in hand, but Ken Weinstein, who is developing the six-acre complex, needs a use variance from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) before the center can move in.

The entire campus is zoned residential.

Community meetings

Following a community meeting last week, Weinstein appears poised to get the green light from the ZBA.

Immediate neighbors voted 12-5 in favor of the variance, and none of area’s registered community organizations — Germantown Community Connection, G’town Restoration CDC and the Wakefield 49ers — oppose the project.

“The ZBA already heard our case and was just looking for more feedback from the community,” said Weinstein after what some attendees framed as a contentious, disorganized meeting. “This is the feedback they were looking for.”

The ZBA ordered Weinstein and representatives with Tori’s Garden to follow up with residents during a late-February hearing after it became clear that the community needed more information about the center.

The board is expected to make a final decision about the variance in the next couple of weeks.

While the ZBA doesn’t automatically side with the community, neighborhood input is typically a critical part of its decision-making process.

“Everybody now really understands what adult daycare is,” said Steve Masters, Tori’s attorney. “Part of our problem was really to educate people.”

So what is an adult day care?

If approved, the center will be housed in a former school building that will be renovated by Weinstein.

It’s slated to serve up to 100 adults — age 60 and up — each week who are either physically or cognitively impaired.

The 8,100 square-foot center would offer social and therapeutic activities, personal care, counseling and a bit of respite to caregivers who need a break from their duties.

Proposed hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

“It allows people to age in place and keep their independence,” said Masters.

How it fits into the campus

The adult daycare would be the third building Weinstein has renovated at the campus.

New Directions for Women, a 25-year-old correctional facility, was the first property to receive the Weinstein treatment.

The former home of St. Michael’s of the Saints Church and School is currently being rehabbed to make way for a new drama and performing arts center. It’s expected to open in May.

“My goals for the campus are one, to beatify the campus,” said Weinstein. “But the second, more important goal, is to renovate each of the five buildings and find suitable tenants.”

Where’s the plan?

While there’s been little pushback on the adult daycare center, some neighbors are eager for more big-picture details about Weinstein’s intentions for the campus.

Residents like Emaleigh Doley are concerned that the complex is being developed building-by-building, seemingly without a comprehensive plan.

“I see a lot of potential in southwest Germantown,” she said, “and we just need to take a breath and see how we can maximize development here.”

Doley doesn’t, for instance, want to see the site take on a health-and-human-services feel. That, she said, could dictate the types of businesses that come to the area in the future.

Weinstein noted that he tried for two years to strike a deal with a single tenant, but that, ultimately, no one was “seriously ready” to commit. Now, he said, there’s no more time to waste.

“We feel a lot of pressure to get these buildings renovated and occupied before they fall down,” said Weinstein. “We don’t have the luxury of time. Buildings fall into disrepair and then you lose them.”

Property history

The building set aside for the adult daycare was built in the 1950s.

The other four were all built in the 1920s and — aside from the New Directions property — have remained vacant for the past few years.

All five buildings were previously owned by Germantown Settlement, a now defunct social-services agency that mismanaged its vast real-estate portfolio with millions of taxpayer dollars on the line.

In Dec. 2010, a federal judge ordered the organization to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidate all of its remaining assets to satisfy creditors.

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