Germantown Town Hall Collaborative hosts weekend meeting to jumpstart revitalization efforts

'Germantown City Hall' was temporarily reopened last year for a Hidden City exhibition. (NewsWorks

'Germantown City Hall' was temporarily reopened last year for a Hidden City exhibition. (NewsWorks

On Saturday, the Germantown Town Hall Collaborative (GTHC) will host a community meeting with the mission of creating “a set of guiding principles for the adaptive re-use of the Hall.”

The meeting, slated for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., will be held at the Germantown Mennonite Church (21 W. Washington Lane) since the building about which attendees will gather to discuss is not open.

The agenda

Charlie McGloughlin, a local architect and GTHC leader, said he expected the meeting to include “an engaging, creative and lively guided discussion” led by Meredith Warner, a University of the Arts professor and Germantown resident.

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Warner, and several of her students, will collect feedback from attendees for use in a set of “guiding principles” for any future development at the site.

“With rumors flying of potential sales and possible developers, we are trying to establish a draft of principles that capture the values we hope are embodied in the site by any adaptive re-use,” McGloughlin said of what’s seen as the first in a series of meetings.

“We are not dictating what the Hall will be,” he continued, “but instead, we will framing what the Hall means to the community and what values are important to preserve in its renovation.”

The back story

Last year, Germantown Town Hall reopened its doors for the first time since 1997 as part of the Hidden City Festival.

In the time since, Collaborative members have been meeting to formulate how to best raise awareness for the effort, McGloughlin said.

“Our year started with a discernment period of about six months while we ascertained how we could achieve this goal while not having ownership or access to the building: A difficult task,” he said, noting that there have been clean-up efforts around the site.

Listed on the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s Endangered Properties list in 2003, the Town Hall site has been many things.

At various points in its history, the 5928 Germantown Ave. site has been a Civil War hospital, city services building and adapted to resemble William Strickland’s Greek Revival Merchant’s Exchange Building.

In recent years, community groups have toiled to come up with plans to see the central Germantown site re-energized as a neighborhood mainstay.

“We have come to the conclusion that we can best help preserve the Hall by compiling and refining the community’s wishes for the building, and then communicating these wishes to those in power to effect change,” he said. “This meeting is the first concerted effort to start compiling the public opinion.”

NewsWorks will be at Saturday’s meeting to provide a full report early next week.

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