Proposal for Frankford Y to get new owner, new name by September 2010

A for-profit development company has agreed on terms to purchase the New Frankford Y, as announced at Tuesday night’s Northwood Civic Association meeting. The Y closed its doors back in May after 68 years as a neighborhood hub.

Portraying himself as well-connected and well-funded, a young and charismatic quarter partner in the Frankford Development Corporation said they plan to reopen the Y as the Frankford Community Center by September 2010.

“The place brings such a rich, beautiful element to the neighborhood,” Anthony Bannister told a dozen residents and the civic board inside a well-heated classroom at St. James Lutheran Church. “I’m not afraid of Frankford. You just need a vision, and I can see it.”

Bannister’s group will officially take over ownership after a settlement scheduled in December with the current owner – the nonprofit New Frankford Community, said Terry Tobin, the Y’s executive director for the past 12 years who has been asked to stay on into the ownership. The final sale price was not yet disclosed, though it will be public after the deal is finalized and processed.

While the Y, located at the corner of Leiper and Arrott Overington streets, was heavily subsidized by grant funding, Bannister said his venture will look to make money by hosting events and programming, like youth sports leagues.

Below, watch Tobin introduce Bannister.

Bannister, who lives in Northern Liberties and uses mass transit daily, said his company plans to invest more than $500,000 in the property, though he declined to give a more specific figure. He did say that notable community architect David Brawer will be handling the design improvements. The building has a notable history, but Tobin said he wouldn’t let the building apply for national registry status because of the restrictive nature of such agreements.

Though Bannister earned applause, civic President Barry Howell called further discussion necessary.

“This is far from settled. We’ve had a lot of bad experiences with people who came in with good faith and good ideas and then instead we got a methadone clinic or something like that” Howell said. “There are going to be a lot of conditions we’ll want in writing. This won’t be any walk in the park.”

Banister’s response, as he stood with a gray suit jacket over a green sweater: “whatever it takes.”

Below, watch Northwood Civic President Barry Howell talk about working with Bannister.

Bannister’s introduction came after he and Tobin had a closed-door meeting with the civic association’s executive board. Tobin said the pair will be presented at the Dec. 3 Frankford Civic Association meeting and are planning to meet with Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, state Rep. Tony Payton and state Sen. Tartaglione

Pledging transparency in the process and calling himself a “risk-taker,” Bannister painted a rosy picture of a reclaimed Leiper Street corridor.

“We want to open this place to the community,” he said.

He said his company has also owned the adjacent Grand Leiper Apartments since July, though the city’s Board of Revision of Taxes Web site doesn’t reference that 4712 property has changed hands since 2004.

Below, Bannister talks about his vision for a Frankford of the future.

Bannister is also a songwriter and a former probation officer, saying he had “case loads” in Frankford. Bannister’s Facebook page lists him having graduated from Overbrook High School in 1993 and the University of the Arts in 1994. It also suggests he is a senior property manager with “The Elizabeth Wright Co. Inc,” though NEast Philly was unable to find a Web site for that company online.

Bannister disclosed owning a half dozen or more properties throughout Philadelphia, including the Leiper Street apartments and another nearby apartment complex.

“There is nothing more I want than this Y getting going again,” said Howell, the civic president. “But we’re going to make sure it’s done the right way.”

Also at the meeting: Civic President Howell pledged that the board was moving ahead with its plan to file a class-action law suit against rental properties in Northwood that they say go against an 80-year-old deed restriction, as first announced at last month’s meeting….A 15th Police District report named Frankford and Northwood as Zone 1 in its Police Service Areas, calling it “the busiest zone in the city….” Howell again urged those attending to bring others: “You have to get your neighbors out here. Numbers matter…” A resident again complained about a house on the 4900-block of Castor Avenue near Allengrove that has a six-foot-high wooden fence that he says is hiding an illegal kennel.

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