Germantown YWCA gets new lease on life (11/18/2016)

Source: The Philadelphia Tribune
Byline: Maya Earls
Date: 11/18/2016

City officials approved the purchase and rehabilitation of the historic Germantown YWCA building last week, bringing an optimistic future to a center once targeted for demolition.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors approved the proposal Nov. 10 by the Black-owned development company KBK Enterprises to turn the YWCA into a residential, retail and office space.

“The PRA was impressed by KBK’s proposal for the Germantown YWCA,” said Greg Heller, executive director of the authority’s board. “They have a track record of building quality projects in other cities across the U.S.”

The PRA issued a request for proposals to rehabilitate the Germantown YWCA this past July. Proposals were scored based on factors such as developer experience, project concept and the creation of a community-based economic opportunity plan.

The Germantown YWCA, which dates to 1915, was one of the first to be integrated before the Civil Rights Movement. Its original motto read: “To empower women and eliminate racism.”

Former executive director Clarice Herbert was the first African-American woman to serve on the YWCA’s central board of directors. Her image along with six other women is painted on a mural that covers one side of the building.

The mural was one of the few aspects of the now abandoned building not damaged by fire and decay. Last year, the Germantown United Community Development Corporation held a meeting to advocate for preserving the building.

“The YWCA is a Germantown gem and has significant historical connection for the Germantown community,” Garlen Capita, president of the GUCDC board, told the Tribune. “This is what makes Germantown unique and … worth saving.”

KBK Enterprises has proposed renovating the building into 12 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units. Half of the units will be designated affordable housing and the other half will be market-priced. The first two floors will have both commercial and office space.

The City Council must approve the development plan. Once approved, the project is estimated to be complete by summer 2019.

“Once this beautiful community asset is brought back to life, we believe it will catalyze other development and investment along Germantown Avenue,” said City Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

With offices in Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, KBK Enterprises has built nearly 2,000 multi-family, mixed-income and mixed-use units. In a press release, the head of the company, Keith B. Kay, said entering the Philadelphia market was exciting.

“We are looking forward to working with the City of Philadelphia, PRA, and the community to make our first Philadelphia project a huge success,” Kay said.