City seeks variance extension at Youth Study Center in East Falls

Construction delays and a change in general contractor on the new site of the city’s Youth Study Center in West Philadelphia could mean up to two more years of occupancy in the facility’s temporary East Falls home, NewsWorks has confirmed.

The Youth Study Center is the city’s secure detention facility for youths ages 13 through 18.

Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison and Department of Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose will discuss an extension of the YSC’s stay at 3232 Henry Ave. at a meeting tonight in the neighborhood, according to an announcement from the East Falls Community Council.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Abbotsford Homes, 3226 McMichael St., where officials will detail the city’s planned request for an extension of the zoning variance that allows the YSC to operate on the former site of the Eastern State Psychiatric Institute.

NewsWorks will cover tonight’s meeting and have a full story on the issue afterward.

In a letter dated July 8 to EFCC officer and zoning expert Meg Greenfield, Gillison writes the new YSC “was initially scheduled to be completed and ready for occupancy in October of this year. However, current projections estimate that transition from the current site at EPPI to the new site in West Philadelphia will not be fully completed until January or February of 2013.”

Michael Resnick, chief of staff for Gillison, said the combination of two harsh winters and the replacement of general contractor Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. put the building of a new YSC at 48th and Haverford behind schedule.

“They weren’t performing up to the standards of the contract,” in regards to some construction details, Resnick said of the contractor.

The city terminated its contract with Bock on July 30, 2010 “due to significant differences that arose . . . centered around quality control, timely submission of required documentation, and coordination with the other three prime contractors on the project,” according to Gillison’s letter.

The YSC moved to East Falls in September, 2008 as its old site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway made way for the new Barnes Foundation. Before the original move, East Falls residents — and Michael Nutter, then seeking his first term as mayor — were wary of the plan, saying the deal was struck without enough community involvement and was the kind of project that could hinder ongoing development efforts in the neighborhood.

Similar arguments killed a recent proposal to move the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit to the same area.

The EFCC notice urges residents to attend the meeting to “let the city know that after the Youth Study Center is gone, the site must be cleared and the community involved in the site development so that we are not saddled with another similar facility.”

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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