State withholds $1 million grant reimbursement from Chelten Plaza developers

    Did neighborhood opposition cost the developers of Chelten Plaza $1 million in state grant funding?

    Within a month of the development’s grand opening at Chelten and Pulaski avenues, $3 million in tax payer money allotted for the project will be reimbursed to Pulaski Partners. That money comes via the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a program which seeks to spur economic growth by funding “projects that have brought jobs and new opportunities to a diverse group of communities throughout the state.”

    The money was previously withheld due to lack of “special conditions” in the contract, but Susan Hooper, spokeswoman for the Office of the Budget said those issues, which the state would not define publicly, have been resolved.

    “The commonwealth is in the process of making proportional reimbursements on the $3 million contract,” she recently stated via email.

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    The state senate passed a bill on Dec. 22 allowing the state to borrow $1.6 billion to pay for capital project debts, including RACP funds. When before the House, state Rep. Rosita Youngblood voted against it, and cited the Chelten Plaza grant money in doing so.

    The missing million dollars

    Chelten Plaza developers had sought $4 million under the grant, but the extra $1 million, which was awarded by the Rendell Administration, was terminated. Hooper wrote that the change was due to “local opposition and opposition from state Rep. Rosita Youngblood.”

    The Corbett Administration held 748 RACP grant awards under review since taking office. To date, 696 have been re-released, but the review is ongoing. Protestors say they sent hundreds of postcards to the Governor’s office urging him to stop the funding during their summer protest efforts.

    Chelten Plaza developer Patrick Burns said he had yet to hear from the state about the grant Thursday morning but that “it was a sad day for Germantown.” The money which will be reimbursed had been spent on landscaping and other site upgrades that a community group and residents had requested.

    “I don’t understand what the issue is. It’s working against, hurting the community,” he said of opposition from Youngblood, who was not available for comment Thursday. The money “was only going to benefit the community.”

    Opposition is pleased

    Burns did not want to publicly air what the withheld grant funding would specifically affect within the community benefits agreement. The opposition, however, was happy.

    “I’m just delighted that we had some impact saving tax payer money,” said Yvonne Haskins, attorney for the protestors, who thanked Governor Corbett personally for listening to his constituents. “I think the community showed unified resolve beyond any imagination, nobody expected such an outpouring of support.”

    Despite those words, it sounds like the opposition is ready to take down their signs. Haskins, one of the organizers of new community development corporation Germantown United, said they hope to work with GCC and G’town Restorations Community Development Corp. in the future.

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