Germantown YWCA sheriff’s sale delayed after building owner couldn’t be found

A scheduled sheriff’s sale on the former Germantown YWCA, a historic building once part of the Germantown Settlement real estate holdings, was scuttled Tuesday and will likely be rescheduled in the spring.

Paul Chrystie, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, which holds a $1.3 million mortgage on 5820-24 Germantown Ave., said the sale was cancelled because the building’s owner couldn’t be located.

“The Redevelopment Authority was unable to serve the property owner with a notice of the sheriff sale and so will use alternate means of legal notification,” Chrystie wrote in an email to NewsWorks.

Settlement liquidaton

The property, damaged by fires, is still owned by the now-defunct Germantown Settlement, headed by Emmanuel Freeman. The YWCA building was among the assets ordered to be liquidated as part of a bankruptcy case filed in 2010 as the social services and housing agency began to crumble.

Chrystie did not respond to questions about whether they had to personally serve Freeman with notice, or what the “alternate means of notification” was in the Settlement matter.

Local developer Ken Weinstein, of Philly Office Retail, told NewsWorks he is interested in potentially buying the YWCA property, demolishing the building and turning it into senior housing.

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy case involving Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation, a Settlement subsidiary which handled residential development, continues making its way through U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Complex bankruptcy process

Gary F. Seitz, the court-appointed trustee in the case, has overseen the sale of several other pieces in what had been Settlement’s portfolio of dozens of residential and retail properties.

Seitz said the complicated job was initially hindered by Freeman’s unwillingness or inability to provide Judge Stephen Raslavich with a complete accounting of the many Settlement subsidiaries and who controls them.

In a court-ordered deposition in Aug. 2011, Freeman shed some light on the complicated web of partnerships and subsidiary companies — many of which Freeman also controlled and others that employed members of his family — that collected millions in public grant and loan money but for which there was little or no paper accounting.

Seitz said he did finally receive an inventory of properties controlled by GGHDC and has been selling them off to satisfy creditors.

Asked if he believed he had received a complete and full accounting of all of the Settlement-related properties, Seitz said he was satisfied that “just from the 30,000-foot view, I have an adequate level of knowledge of what there is.”

Seitz said the properties he has sold so far were those whose ownership was easiest to decipher and which had some real value, such as retail-residential properties along Germantown Avenue.

“I still have about 20 properties I’m trying to figure out how to get some value from,” he said.

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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