OARC launches renovation of four ‘eyesore and nuisance’ properties in Germantown

John Ungar, the chief operating officer of the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. (OARC) stood at the site of a new revitalization project at East Penn and Wakefield streets in Germantown on Tuesday.

There, at an event to launch a venture that extends OARC’s reach beyond its West Oak Lane base, Ungar said four houses that have sat vacant for a dozen years will be renovated and sold.

“These properties have been an eyesore and a nuisance, and the subject of significant complaints from the neighbors,” Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass said at a press conference at the site. “I have been hoping and waiting for someone to take this project on.”

How they got here

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There were reasons for that wait. According to senior project manager Keith Miller, construction errors and a lack of adequate funding nearly doomed the vacant properties’ restoration several years ago.

From there, the Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation was leery of moving forward with another round of plans to restore the relatively spacious modular housing units.

For its first foray into Germantown, though, OARC teamed with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to target the project once again, with new dollars from the Housing Trust Fund.

An investment of more than $500,000 will result in a complete renovation of the four homes, one of which will be ADA-accessible, and their grounds.

The Mt. Airy-based McCoubrey/Overholser construction firm started renovations earlier this month. As people gathered at the site Tuesday morning, a grounds crew continued noisily beating back the overgrown corners of the lawns with weed wackers.

A home tour

Each unit boasts of a small foyer/dining room, kitchen, bathroom and living room on the first floor, and a full bath, two small bedrooms and a master bedroom (with ample closet space) upstairs. The homes will also include full, unfinished basements.

While there is no set sale-price yet, Miller and Ungar estimate that the houses will be listed in the $150,000 range (the handicap-accessible unit will go for closer to $120,000), which is lower than official appraisal values.

“We’re going to make sure homeowners are educated,” Ungar said, illustrating an important aspect of the project. “Once these [houses] are done, the important thing is getting homeowners in here who are going to be stable, so these are not going to revert to the condition that they’re currently in.”

He touted “pre-purchase counseling” with the help of the West Oak Lane Community Development Corporation to vet potential buyers, “so people understand the realities of homeownership.”

The units will be sold through Weichert Realtors of Ft. Washington.

Trickle-down benefits

“An investment of over a half-million dollars in this neighborhood, that’s important,” Bass said. “It goes a long way towards other properties in the neighborhood, because developments like this spur other economic developments in the area.”

Bass was also pleased to see racial diversity in the ranks of the project’s participants, including the contracting crew.

“When you want to do projects in Philadelphia, and particularly in the Eighth District, it’s important that we have a diversified workforce,” she said.

Ungar estimated that renovations will be completed in six months.

“It’s an example of how beautiful homes in an urban neighborhood can be affordable,” he said.

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