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A historic school building in Germantown is slated to reopen by next summer — more than a decade after academic performance and shrinking enrollment closed the hulking property amid a financial crisis at the School District of Philadelphia.
Developers are converting the former Germantown High School into a mixed-use development with approximately 240 apartments. The first 45 units are expected to be completed in the next 6-8 months. The entire project could wrap up as early as 2025.
“Construction will be moving along at a pretty quick pace,” said architect David Polatnick during a packed community meeting held Thursday night.
The news came nearly two years after Germantown Development, the property’s second new owner, began transforming the property on Germantown Avenue, a by-right project that has frustrated residents still heartbroken over the decision to close the neighborhood’s only public high school after 99 years in the community.
Thursday’s meeting was the first time since construction started that developers publicly discussed the highly-anticipated revamp with neighbors, a fact that left several residents seeking basic details about the privately-funded project.
“You said some of these units are already done, when was the building sold?” asked one attendee.
Germantown Development, a Philadelphia-based limited liability company, bought the high school from The Concordia Group in 2017, securing the necessary permits about two years later.
The company plans to transform the interior of the property over four phases and offer studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. Some will be multilevel while others will be flats, said Polatnick.
The second phase will see 57 units come online. The third phase will have 99 units. The final phase will see approximately 40 units.
The building will repurpose the high school’s back parking lot, which contains roughly 180 spots. The project will also have about 3,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, which may feature a coffee shop.
“We want to bring a nice beautiful project for the community that can benefit everyone — the people living next door, the people living nearby. We’re just trying to satisfy everyone,” said operations Nir Alon after the meeting.
During the meeting, several residents raised concerns about affordability.
Anthony Fullard, president of West Powelton Development, told the audience the project will have a mix of market-rate and affordable units, including ADA-compliant units for low-income residents with disabilities. He said the development team is working out some of those details with the help of Liberty Resources, a nonprofit that works with that population.
For now, it’s unclear how many units will be affordable and how many will be market-rate. Fullard and his partners also haven’t settled on monthly rents for the project, a source of concern for some residents as the neighborhood continues to attract attention from developers.
It’s also unclear how much the project will cost to complete. Fullard refused to divulge that information to neighbors or a reporter.
“That’s inside information,” said Fullard. “It’s in the millions.”
Thursday’s meeting came as developers also work to reopen Germantown Town Hall and the former Germantown YWCA, two neighborhood landmarks that residents also desperately want to see redeveloped after years of vacancy and blight.
City Councilmember Cindy Bass, first elected in 2012, said she’s optimistic all three assets can be revived in the near future.
“These projects do have life and they are moving. So we want people to stay optimistic and positive about Germantown and what Germantown can be,” said Bass.
Fullard hopes to be the developer for Germantown Town Hall. He has a memorandum of understanding with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, which will determine if his company’s redevelopment plan for the city-owned property is viable.
Fullard wants to transform the historic building into a mixed-use development with apartments, event space, and office space. Plans may also include space for a restaurant and units for short-term rental through Airbnb. He also wants to build a separate apartment building that would sit directly behind the town hall structure.
Ohio-based KBK Enterprises wants to transform the Y into a mixed-use development with 45 units of affordable housing. The company is still working to secure financing for the $18 million project.
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