Frankford Y plan changes, still scheduled to reopen in September

It seems the Northwood Civic Association has made nice with the for-profit company poised take operational control over the storied Frankford Y.

“This has the prospects of being a well established part of the community,” civic President Barry Howell told nearly 40 residents inside the St. James’ church basement at Castor Avenue and Bridge Street Tuesday night.

It was Howell, of course, who said in December that he “sensed a rat” around the proposal. But Howell now says lots has changed since then.

Howell’s criticism — including strong words for the existing Y executive director — did win a rethinking of the proposal from New Frankford Developers. No longer will the for-profit development company purchase the Frankford Y, but rather it will invest capital and operate it, said development company President Felicia Richardson.

“It’s in our best interest to see the Y prosper again,” she told NEast Philly, noting that among her real estate holdings is the adjacent Grand Leiper Apartments.

Due to financial constraints and a loss of state funding, the Y closed last June.

Below watch her presentation at the Northwood meeting.

Richardson is partners with Anthony Bannister, the smooth talking Northern Liberties resident and sometimes songwriter who says he’s the nephew of U.S. Congressman and West Philadelphia Democratic power leader Chaka Fattah. Bannister first introduced the idea at a November Northwood civic meeting, standing next to long-time Y executive director Terry Tobin. Tobin will remain on staff, Richardson confirmed.

Richardson said they are utilizing a grant writer, a lawyer with lobbying experience and her own experience to bring in grants to fund the proposed $1.9 million in development, which includes work to the indoor swimming pool and the installation of a running track around it. Costs will be subsidized by services like full-day pre-school classes and senior programs, she said.

The Frankford Gazette has a PDF of the full proposal.

The Y will be operational by September, Richardson said, and would be renamed for the late former federal appeals judge Edward Becker, who was a founding member of both the Y and the Northwood Civic Association, as Howell noted. To ease resident concerns, the Y will have an advisory board made of community members, as first announced at a stakeholders meeting last Friday.

Read other updates from the Northwood meeting from the Frankford Gazette here.

Below, watch President Barry Howell introduce Richardson and talk about the project.

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