In a unanimous vote late last week, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s Easement Committee denied proposed amendments to historic preservation easements on the Greylock Manor mansion that would have allowed the Green Woods Charter School to move into the empty property.
Faced with a burgeoning student enrollment, the school is now searching for a new permanent location in the Northwest as well as an interim site for expansion next year.
Green Woods had an agreement of sale on the property at 209 W. Chestnut Hill Ave. contingent upon the current owner, Greylock Holdings LLC, receiving the approvals. That deal is now off, school officials said, and Green Woods is moving on.
“It’s done. From our point of view, it’s finished,” said Karen Aves, a Chestnut Hill resident whose two sons attend Green Woods. She said the school has good leads on potential sites, but remains disappointed they couldn’t make it work at Greylock.
Aves and other parents collected more than 600 signatures from area residents — including many of her neighbors in Chestnut Hill — expressing support for the school. Several other neighbors, however, unhappy at the idea of the school’s move to Greylock, formed a non-profit aimed at blocking the move.
“I’m disappointed that the school’s not going to be at that location, and I’m disappointed for my community because it could have been such an asset to the community,” Aves said. “It could have been magic; it was a near-perfect location. It could have been a fabulous partnership and brought a very unique academic institution to the community.”
In denying the easement amendments, the CHHS said its first duty is “to uphold and defend” the 35 conservation and preservation easements it holds on properties in Chestnut Hill, including those at Greylock.
“The primary goals and purposes of these easements are to ensure this property remains residential, with some limited commercial uses allowed; and to forever protect the historic facade and to preserve open space and scenic public views,” CHHS Executive Director Jennifer S. Hawk said in a statement Monday.
Had the easements been approved, Green Woods’ plan would have eventually brought 675 students to the site, and required extensive renovation and expansion of the property. The school has to vacate its current site, on the grounds of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, in 2012. The School Reform Commission recently approved Green Woods’ charter expansion, giving it permission to triple student enrollment over the next few years.
The CHHS statement praised Green Woods for attempting to minimize the overall impact on the property, and noted that as an environmental-learning school, its mission is in many ways similar to its own and that of the Friends of the Wissahickon. In the end, however, the decision was made “with special emphasis on enhancement of or at least not lessening the preservation and conservation values” of the easements.
Ironically, Aves said, the school’s efforts to build support for its move to Greylock may not have been for naught: In going door-to-door seeking signatures in support of the move, they were able to bring the school to the attention of many who weren’t familiar with it before.
“I’m looking forward to the expansion and to finding the perfect site,” she said. “There’s a lot of kids out there who will benefit from the school, no matter where it goes.”
This is a revised version of the original story posted on May 16.
Contact Amy Z. Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org