Councilwoman Bass commits $2.2 million to crumbling Germantown YWCA building

 The century-old YWCA in Germantown may get new life thanks to roughly $4 million in city funding. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The century-old YWCA in Germantown may get new life thanks to roughly $4 million in city funding. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

A crumbling, century-old property in Northwest Philadelphia may get new life thanks to roughly $4 million in city funding.

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass announced Thursday she is committing $2.2 million to stabilize the Germantown YWCA, a vacant brick building she thinks can “change the face” of the neighborhood. 

The dollars represent the remaining funds reserved for her district long ago through the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, which owns the four-story property, will supply the additional $1.8 million, said Bass.

“Once we found out that [the YWCA] was not imminently dangerous, we knew that the building was going to be able to be saved,” she said. “We’re all very excited.”

Especially residents. The Y is one of the neighborhood’s most bemoaned pieces of blight.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Yvonne Haskins, who helped collect hundreds of petition signatures after forming Friends to Save The Germantown YWCA. “It’s one of our icons.”

Built in 1914, the YWCA was once a glowing community hub with a rich history. The facility was one of the first to be racially integrated.

Today, it’s an eyesore along a busy, struggling stretch of Germantown Avenue’s commercial corridor.

Squatters, fires and vandals have all left their mark on the building since it was shuttered in 2006.

It’s unclear what the future holds now. Bass said the PRA plans to re-issue a Request for Proposals for redevelopment sometime this spring.

An RFP was issued last year, but only one proposal for 50 units of senior housing was submitted. The PRA rejected the project because it didn’t have Bass’ support.

This year, Bass said a half-dozen developers have already reached out about the project.

“There’s a lot of interest out there,” she said. “They see that Germantown is on the rise and they want to be part of it.”

Any project will require a considerable investment even with the aid of a subsidy such as low-income tax credits.

Mt. Airy developer Ken Weinstein, who is among those who may submit a proposal, said renovations could cost upwards of $17 million.

While the property is not “imminently dangerous,” it is in rough shape, said Weinstein, who has toured the building several times.

“I hear a lot of talk about market-rate housing and it’s put up or shut up time,”he said. “Either submit proposals that make sense or stop talking about it.”

Thursday’s announcement is the latest positive news for this slice of Germantown.

On Friday, Bass will join city officials and residents for a groundbreaking ceremony at Vernon Park, which abuts the Y.

The park, long home to day drinking and loitering, is getting a $1.2 million makeover that includes new lighting, pathway improvements and new children’s playground equipment.

Monuments and statues will also be restored.

Not far away, Maplewood Mall, a run-down retail corridor between Greene Street and Germantown Avenue, is also slated for renovation to the tune of $2.2 million.

Both projects received funding from Bass’ office.

“Having this building now being brought back to life just fits in perfectly with what was already planned,” said Andy Trackman, executive director of Germantown United CDC.

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