Tag Archives: Germantown United CDC

Redevelopment of Germantown’s YWCA about more than just one building

The shuttered YWCA.

The shuttered YWCA.

UPDATED: 4:30 PM February 17, 2015

Local media turned it’s attention to development in Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood this week as journalists reported on the fate of the historic YWCA building. Set on the 5800 block of Germantown Avenue, the building frames the northern side of leafy Vernon Park and fronts the commercial corridor. The week’s tales of woe, much of which centered on whether the building would face demolition or redevelopment, left me feeling very sad about Germantown as a neighborhood and place I call home, frustrated but not at a loss for words.

Here’s my letter to The Inquirer in response to architecture critic Inga Saffron’s take in her Changing Skyline column, published in the Tuesday, February 17th Opinion section (glad it’s back to two pages of commentary):

Promising neighborhood deserves better

TEXT: When it comes to planning and development, the Germantown community is feeling its way through the dark (“Without Y, Germantown loses part of its past,” Feb. 13). Where, for starters, is the City Planning Commission’s district plan for Germantown?

Whatever happens with the neighborhood’s vacant YWCA will affect its central park, its commercial corridor, and the future development of Germantown in a big way.

I know Germantown has what it takes. And I’m looking for change I can believe in, not change I’m mildly OK with. But if the wave of development sweeping the neighborhood now doesn’t meet my expectations, I will, with a heavy heart, look for a new place to live, work, and play.

I have already invested (and sacrificed) years making a positive difference on my own block, only to be crushed by the weight of insurmountable problems – poverty, ever more diminished city services, and the lack of oversight or feigned interest of the city agencies handling inspections and public housing.

I want neighborhood reinvestment that excites me. I’m young. I’m civically engaged. But I’m burning out fast. And I could use a good shot of espresso at a café in my very own neighborhood, as well as the ability to stop at a convenience store that isn’t reminding me over a loudspeaker every minute that I’m on camera.

We should have opportunities and we should have options to shape a grand vision for Germantown.

Emaleigh Doley, Philadelphia, www.rocklandstreet.com

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

big-news-clipart-200x243In the news

1. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic Inga Saffron pens an ode to the old building and brings the hammer down on councilmanic prerogative: Changing Skyline: Political battle could topple Germantown Y.

2. Earlier in the week, The Inquirer‘s city hall reporter Claudia Vargas captured Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ point of view: What’s to become of the old Germantown YWCA? The article notes the Councilwoman doesn’t want more subsidized housing at this location on Germantown Avenue. Bass says that given Germantown’s potential, time is needed to find the right plan for the old Y. “Land in Germantown, I believe, is becoming more and more valuable as we speak.”

3. Flying Kite Media offered a recap of the January 22, 2015 community meeting about the fate of the YWCA building, convened by Germantown United CDC.

4. Here on The W Rockland Street Project blog, my top 5 questions about the YWCA redevelopment leading up to the January 22 meeting.

5. A range of opinion and community conversation on Changing Germantown: facebook.com/groups/ChangingGermantown

Map view

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Grant opportunity to design a neighborhood bulletin board

STONE_SOUP_LOGO-300x270Last month, Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) launched the micro-grant program Stone Soup Saturdays, awarding grants to artists, designers, gardeners and other creatives for projects in four Germantown locations.

We’re excited that one of the locations just happens to be W Rockland Street and hope our idea for a neighborhood bulletin board inspires you!

Germantown United is looking for projects with the potential to create a catalyst for future beautification and development in the neighborhood, foster community ownership of public spaces and increase community pride. We like the sound of that!

While the deadline for proposals has past for the other three project locations, the deadline for W Rockland St has been extended until we find the right match. 

Community Exchange

To help shape the Stone Soup project on W Rockland St, we’re offering applicants some suggestions for a community exchange tool we’d like to experiment with on the block.

Recognizing that communication is paramount, we’re looking for a designer, architect or builder to help us create a neighborhood bulletin board. Our plan is to build two and install the boards at the highly visible vacant lot at the corner of Greene St and W Rockland St and outside of the community garden at 15 W Rockland St.

Our hope is that the bulletin board will become the go-to place for W Rockland St Project flyers and community news, helping to connect and inform nearby blocks. We would like the design to feature an accessible space for anyone to post flyers and a protective enclosed case for official W Rockland St Project communications (we distribute A LOT of flyers). The design must be able to withstand outdoor weather conditions and an urban environment.

Our project is all about the community. After the winning proposal is selected, we’ll organize a build-day with GUCDC and the designer and invite neighborhood residents to participate in the installation.

How Neighborhoods Share Information

Sure, lots of neighborhood communications have moved online, but here in Germantown we know there is still a place for the paper flyer. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been snapping photographs of outdoor bulletin boards at parks and gardens around Philadelphia for inspiration. Here are a few examples from Fishtown, Mt. Airy and Northern Liberties.

My favorite example is a neighborhood bulletin board in Lutheran Settlement House's garden on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, near Master Street.

My favorite design sits in Lutheran Settlement House’s garden on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, near Master Street.

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Submit Your Idea!

Grants of up to $1500 will be awarded for materials and artist stipends. There is a total of $7,500 available for implementation of all selected proposals. This program was made possible by a grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund.

The W Rockland St Project will also help to assist with additional fundraising and materials donations to help lower the cost of the project.

The three other Stone Soup project locations identified by Germantown United CDC are: the unit block of West Haines Street at the garden space on the south side of Germantown Town Hall, the wall at the southwest corner of Chelten and Greene along the southbound bus stop at Greene St and Chelten Ave, and parking lot entryway of the Germantown Life Enrichment Center (GLEC) at 5772 Greene Street. GUCDC is no longer accepting applications for those projects.

To submit your project for W Rockland Street, download the Stone Soup Saturday application and email your pitch to info@germantownunitedcdc.org. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!