Northeast Community Center sale to Sant Properties now unlikely

With a damaged roof, a stalled Sheriff’s Sale and no perspective tenants, the Northeast Community Center at 2840 Holme Ave. in Holme Circle is likely also still without a buyer.

Holme Circle Civic Association President Elsie Stevens said last week that brothers Ravinder “Robbie” and Hardeep Chawla will probably not follow through with a deal to purchase the center, mainly because of the inability to find a tenant.

“We want to work with the community and make the space commercially viable,” Ravinder Chawla said just before the brothers’ pending agreement ended June 6. The siblings run Sant Properties, and even when they were considering buying the 28,000+ square foot building, the HCCA had concerns about the use of the property.

“I have talked to Robbie on several occasions and I do believe he wants to work with the community,” Stevens said. “But we are concerned with the previous legal problems.”

Those unfamiliar with the Chawla brothers might recognize them from the 2008 charges against them for bribing a City Council aide to assist with Center City development. Hardeep was acquitted, but Ravinder was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and was ordered to pay $25,000 for conspiracy to corrupt ex-Council aide Christopher Wright. Wright, an aide to then-Councilman Jack Kelly, was convicted of accepting a free apartment and parking from Chawla in exchange for getting city support for the Chawlas’ development projects.

“As of today, we do not have any perspective tenants,” Ravinder Chawla said. “One of the damaging issues is that there is not enough parking. We want to work with the community to meet their needs but unless we get more time, we are leaning in the direction of not purchasing the property.”

The community center once offered services similar to what you might find at a YMCA. The building has a paved parking lot that’s capable of holding 25 vehicles, a playground with a mulched ground surface, a fitness center, an Olympic-size pool, an all-purpose room, a kitchen, a preschool room and a gymnasium. TD Bank now owns the building after the previous owners, Stan Cohen and Mindy Lange, experienced some financial difficulties and were unable to maintain the building. They lost the property to Sheriff’s sale in November 2012.

When asked if his previous legal issues had an effect on their decision not to purchase the property, Chawla said. “Any legal issues that we have had in the past have all been resolved. If the community has prospective tenants that they want us to evaluate for the Northeast Community Center, we are happy to do that, but we need more time.”

 Haniyyah Sharpe is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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