Neighbors demand answers on overhaul of Germantown Boys and Girls club

 Volunteers cleaning up the Germantown Boys and Girls club last year. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks, file)

Volunteers cleaning up the Germantown Boys and Girls club last year. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks, file)

A casual neighborhood meeting quickly turned into a firing line as Penn Knox residents blasted associates from the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia over the planned demolition and replacement of the historic Germantown structure.

More than 60 folks aired their grievances Monday night inside the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf as BGCP Co-CEO Lisabeth Marziello hosted an open forum for discussion, and ultimately, a fury of complaints.

“Germantown’s major asset is its historic buildings, and it’s so important that we be sensitive to the loss of any of them,” said Connie Winters, a neighborhood resident since 1976. Winders echoed the overwhelming plea for restoring the historic landmark as had been accomplished with the Shane Victorino Nicetown Boys and Girls Club in 2011.

Marziello urged people to tour the inside of the building because although the facade looks strong, the dilapidated infrastructure remains hazardous. She said the building is “not salvageable.”

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The new facility would be open from 7 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. Memberships would cost $5 a year, giving access to a kids’ café, technology center, art room, music and sound studio, multisensory literacy center, and hockey rink operated by the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

However, it was that last addition which drew the most ire. Many attendees argued that a pool or multipurpose field would appeal more to the neighborhood children.

The main issue among the residents was how the new facility would affect an already congested parking situation.

“Penn Street is already clogged at pick-up and drop-off,” said resident Pam Walters to a thunderous applause.

Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass responded by vowing to bring in the streets department as consultants on the development, and even suggested residential parking stickers as a possible solution.

Other issues raised were demolition vibrations, trash and debris, covering green space, and safety issues during construction.

“We are at the beginning,” Marziello said. “Everyone has ideas and thoughts and we’d like to be able to use them.”

Comcast Corp. is spearheading the overhaul with a $40 million fundraising drive that will replace the Germantown club with the Ralph J. Roberts Boys and Girls Club, named after the founder of the media juggernaut who lived in Germantown as a teenager.

The $40 million will also be spent on improving six other Boys and Girls Club facilities in the city.

Comcast, the Roberts family, and the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation have donated $8 million to start the campaign.

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