Germantown Settlement’s remains help establish a charter school in Camden

The remnants of the failed Germantown Settlement Charter School will help give a new charter school in Camden, NJ a head start when it opens in September.

On Tuesday, workers from Camden’s City Invincible Charter School, a Foundations Inc. school approved in January, arrived at 4811 Germantown Ave. to haul away about 300 student desks and chairs, along with books and other instructional materials that were left when the Germantown school closed its doors three years ago.

In April, other staffers from City Invincible visited the site, poring through stacks of books and equipment, dividing them into piles to be taken to the Camden school, along with Arise Academy and the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology.

“It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, so we’re thrilled,” said Noah Krey of Philly Office Retail, which owns the Germantown Avenue site and is emptying the buildings out in anticipation of future tenants.

Interest in the property

Meanwhile, others showed up to tour the property, looking for potential in the former school, administration building and performing arts center on the Germantown campus.

Charles Jones, an attorney from Glenside, was scouting locations for a possible new church congregation or charter school.

Kareem Rogers, who runs an arts-based non-profit mentoring program called Greatness Is In You!, was especially interested in the former performing-arts building, which has a large stage area and a kitchen in the basement.

After checking out the buildings, both men said there was plenty of repair and rehab work needed, but also a lot of potential.

“I’m definitely interested” in exploring use of the performing arts center to be a home for Greatness Is In You!, Rogers said. “There’s no beacon of hope, no light for our youth. I don’t want to keep talking about the problem, I want to do something to create a solution.”

Seeking neighborhood input

Philly Office Retail is also looking for suggestions on what Germantown and Mt. Airy residents would like to see in their neighborhood, and they’re using Twitter as a suggestion box of sorts, Krey said.

People are invited to contact them at twitter.com/phofficeretail with comments, suggestions — and even critiques. Philly Office Retail is offering referral bonuses for suggestions that lead to signed tenant leases.

“We want them to let us know what they’d like to see in their neighborhoods,” Krey said. “On our end, we’re trying to get more community involvement and not just from the big enterprises.”

Referral fees of $150 for residential and $250 for commercial tenants will be paid, he said.

The back story

Originally the St. Michael of the Saints school and church, and founded in the 1920s as a parish for the then-burgeoning Italian-American community in Germantown, the campus at 4811 Germantown Ave. later housed grades 5 and 6 of Germantown Settlement Charter School until it closed in 2009.

Developer Ken Weinstein bought the property about three months ago in a foreclosure that resulted from the 2010 bankruptcy of Germantown Settlement.

The former convent on the site has been home to the New Directions for Women alternative correctional facility for more than 20 years, and the facility will stay in that building.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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