Protests at Chelten Plaza with $4 million in state funds on hold

Protestors plan one of their biggest demonstrations yet at Chelten Plaza in Germantown, as state officials announce a hold up in $4 million slated to go to the project.

For nearly a month now a group of Germantown residents have maintained a three times weekly protest at the corner of Chelten and Pulaski avenues to express their disdain for the development under construction there.

The plan includes heavy state subsidy for the $14 million strip mall, but protestors are livid that taxpayer money will go to subsidize discount level chain stores like Dollar Tree and Save-A-Lot, instead of a full service supermarket. Developer Pat Burns abruptly closed a full service market on the site in February.

Protestors have been flooding state offices with mail requesting a stoppage to the funds slated for Chelten Plaza, but Susan Hooper director of communications for the Office of the Budget said that’s not the reason for the grant delay. The reason, she said, is that Fresh Grocer supermarket owner and site developer Pat Burns has not met certain of the grant requirements.

“It is not atypical,” she wrote in an email to NewsWorks, explaining that some developers need extra time. But once the conditions are met the state is under contract to release $3 million to Burns.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia City Paper reports, there is another $1 million in state RACP funds under review for the project.

Eric Shirk, spokesman for Governor Corbett’s office, said the hold on the latest $1 million is part of a larger review of 748 state funded (RACP) projects across the state. Though at least 100 of those have already won the go-ahead from Corbett, Shirk said Burns’ latest grant request is still under review.

The community groups Germantown Community Connection is in negotiations with Burns over Chelten Plaza. Many of the protestors, and Youngblood too, think GCC has lost its way on this project.

“Germantown Community Connection doesn’t speak for the whole community,” she said during a recent phone interview.

That Burns has not met some of the special conditions required for his first $3 million is no surprise to Youngblood, who has pushed the developer before over environmental concerns on the site.

“He’s only doing what he has to do once it has been brought to his attention and people are watching,” she said.

Burns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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