On March 14th, 2019, more than 250 people showed up to a community meeting at the Janes Memorial United Methodist Church to discuss issues related to the vacant Germantown High School property.
Julie Stapleton-Carroll from Germantown United informed the room that the Germantown High School building has been sold twice for vastly different amounts. It was first sold in a package by the school district for $6.8 million. Later, in May of 2017, it was sold to developer Concordia for only $100,000, and then transferred to another developer, Jack Azran.
“That’s less than my mortgage, it’s pretty terrible.” She also told the crowd that in the 2 years since it was sold, $150,000 in property taxes have not been paid to the city for the two buildings. According to the Office of Property Assessment data, the school had a value of $12 million but is now valued at $1.6 million. This information left many at the meeting shocked and outraged.
When plans posted online by MSC Retail in January were circulated on Facebook, they were widely panned by Germantown residents. At the meeting, many continued their criticism. Many in attendance also wanted to preserve the green space and historical architecture of the property, but plans show that the lawn area will be paved over to create 65 new parking spots. No plans show safeguards in place for historical preservation.
Azran and High Top Real Estate were invited to the meeting but no one representing the developer was in attendance.
Residents on the surrounding block have reported that people have been removing parts of the interior of the buildings and have been posting photos of doing so on Facebook.
Darwin Beauvais, an attorney representing High Top Real Estate told the Chestnut Hill Local that, “This advertisement by the brokers has done everyone a disservice because it’s putting presumptions that we don’t even have out there” and that the developer would be happy to hold a meeting once “they have toured the site.”
Councilwoman Cindy Bass was at the meeting and stated that she was trying to lock down a date to bring the developer in for a community meeting in the first two weeks in April. But on an April 3rd Facebook post,she stated: “I’ve been trying to reach the Germantown High developer to schedule an spring community meeting but unfortunately, my numerous requests and outreaches have gone unanswered.”
Councilwoman Bass also acknowledged a 20-year friendship with Beauvais. “I never make a decision that the community doesn’t want! This is a community-driven process, always has been and always will be,” Bass in an article published by Billy Penn.
Two groups in Germantown will be hosting events this week about the development of Germantown High School, Pennsylvania faith-based organizing group POWER is hosting a Thursday, April 11th event at 6PM, St Vincent de Paul Church, 109 E Price St. And the Germantown Info Hub will be hosting an event “Germantown Behind the Headlines: Germantown High School” in collaboration with WHYY and Billy Penn on Saturday, April 13th at 10AM, People’s Education Center, 5445 Germantown Ave.