Green Woods wins final approval for Domino Lane relocation

It’ll be last call at Keenan’s Valley View Inn sometime in June, as the city gave the official go-ahead to variances that will allow Green Woods Charter School to move to 468 Domino Lane in Roxborough.

A visibly relieved Bill and Beth Keenan, who have owned the neighborhood catering hall, restaurant and onetime swim club since 1981, said they were thrilled with the school’s plan. But they might not be ready to leave the business quite yet: Bill Keenan said he is considering at least one other Roxborough property to possibly relocate.

The last banquet on Domino Lane is scheduled for June 16, and the property sale has a projected settlement date of June 30, Keenan said. From there, he could relocate his business — which retains a liquor license — and operate it himself, or buy a property and lease the operations, equipment and inventory he already has, to someone else.

“I don’t want to leave the community high and dry,” Keenan said. “I’m not abandoning Roxborough.

The couple said they knew their current and past customers thought well of them but have been overwhelmed by the community’s response to their planned closing, and are heartened to know the place they have in the fabric of local life.

Last weekend, a group of former swim club members gathered for a reunion at the restaurant, while others have told the couple they had counted on having their own funeral luncheons at the Valley View Inn after they passed on.

“I never realized that before this went on,” Beth Keenan said. “We knew people cared, but we just never knew the heart of the community.” Still, the environmentally-focused school taking over the property is the best possible idea, she said.

A beloved business 

While in talks with the school over the last few months, Bill Keenan, has tried to say as little as possible publicly, for fear of turning off customers and worrying his employees.

“The stress factor has been terrible,” said Keenan, who beat lung cancer a few years ago and said he started thinking about how to secure his family’s future then. He never put the property up for sale, never officially told anyone the restaurant was closing, but was open to the idea when the school came calling.

Green Woods’ last day of classes at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, where it was founded in 2002, will be June 8, with move-out a week later. Students will spend next year in Manayunk, at the former St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Assumption schools, while the new campus is under construction.

The new building and site agreements 

In an email sent to NewsWorks yesterday, Jean Wallace, the school’s CEO, said she’s ‘thrilled’ by the final approval.

On Domino Lane, Green Woods will have about 5.5 acres, and a 60,000 square-foot, 34-classroom building with an adjacent administration building connected by a footbridge. The school’s charter allows for expansion of up to 675 students. The school building will have a full-sized gymnasium with accessory space, along with learning hubs for art, music and science.

It took a few months and several meetings, but Green Woods was also able to secure a needed letter of support from the Ridge Park Civic Association. The civic group negotiated a series of conditions with the school on behalf of several neighbors on Paoli Avenue and in the Abbey House apartments, adjacent on Domino Lane.

The agreement, which Green Woods agreed to as a condition of receiving the variance, would give the RPCA a seat on the school’s board of trustees, a position that will initially be filled by RPCA officer Patti Brennan. Also a deed restriction will bar the school from creating traffic on Silverwood Street and Paoli Avenue, including banning pedestrian access through the rear of the school site.

Buses would be prohibited from parking or idling along Domino Lane, and the school agreed to seek a flashing school zone sign on the busy street and provide traffic coordinators during peak drop-off and pickup times.

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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