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Green Woods Charter explores possible move to Manayunk

Over the years, proposals have come and gone for development of the large wooded tract in Manayunk and Roxborough known as Germany Hill. The Green Woods Charter School, currently looking for a new home, could be the latest effort.

Representatives of the school, recently rebuffed in efforts to move to an empty mansion in Chestnut Hill, appeared at Thursday night’s meeting of the Ridge Park Civic Association for what was described as a “very preliminary conversation.”

Jean Wallace, Green Woods’ CEO, confirmed Thursday that the school was eyeing a Germany Hill parcel as a possible future site. Green Woods recently received approval from the School Reform Commission to expand over the next few years to a total of 675 students.

Wallace said the possibility of a Germany Hill site had come to the school’s attention just hours before the RPCA meeting, and that the administrators were open to input on potential sites. “There are no plans in place, no drawings,” Wallace said. “We want the school to stay in the Northwest area and wanted to reach out to the community association to see if Germany Hill might be considered.”

The 20-acre Germany Hill site is one of the last remaining wooded tracts in the area below Ridge Avenue, and is bounded by Smick, Fountain and Mansion streets, and Parker Avenue. The Fairmount Park Commission owns about 12 acres, but the rest is privately held, and the entire area is undeveloped. [map of Fairmount Park Commission holdings http://www.fairmountpark.org/images/park%20wide.jpg ]

If the plan eventually went through, the school would develop a 1.3-acre area within a roughly 8-acre section of Germany Hill, with the address of 201-R, or 201-51 Parker Ave. The RPCA formed a committee headed by member Marlene Schleifer to hold further discussions with school representatives, who will appear at a later meeting.

The tract appears in recent real estate listings priced at $1.3 million for an 8.3-acre parcel, with water and sewer lines already in place and a by-right approval for 24 twin houses to be constructed, with the potential for two buildings of up to 50 senior-citizen condos. [listing: http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/16439896/201-51-Parker-Avenue-Philadelphia-PA/ ]

City tax records show the property was purchased for $500,000 in April, 2005 by Parker Avenue L.P. of Doylestown, and is current on the annual $9,903 property tax bill. In recent years the Ivy Ridge Green volunteer group has added Germany Hill to its project list, holding trash cleanups and cutting back overgrowth.

Neighbors have fought to keep Germany Hill from being built up, in the face of several residential proposals over the last few decades. A proposal in 2007 that would have seen more than 50 homes built there fizzled after an outcry from the community, led by the RPCA.

The school will move from its current location, at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, when its lease there expires in 2012. A recent effort to relocate the school to Greylock Manor, an empty mansion in Chestnut Hill, fell through after needed amendments to historic preservation easements on the property were turned down.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn azquinn@planphilly.com.

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