Photo by Andrea Wenzel

Germantown residents gathered on Saturday, April 13, to speak with journalists that are covering the controversy around the sale of the Germantown High School property.

Secrecy around plans by the original purchasers has left community members wondering what will come of the property and the various economic and political processes related to this issue.

As a means of addressing the topic, and allowing journalists to hear the concerns of local residents, the Germantown held the event, held at the People’s Education Center, to bring the two parties together.

Journalists from WHYY, Billy Penn and the East Falls Local participated in the event, along with the Info Hub.

“When you look across the city sharp patterns emerge. And you will understand that what happened in Germantown is not incidental it is the result of systemic decisions.” said Ariella Cohen, managing editor of Plan Philly at WHYY.

After listening to the stories written by Plan Philly, Billy Penn, and The Local, residents came up with many questions regarding the sale including:

— How does campaign finance for elected officials affect development?

— How might we connect residents who are interested in co-investing in development or properties?

— What role can Germantown’s city councilperson, Cindy Bass, have in the process of this development?

In addition, there were several open-ended areas of inquiry pertaining to this issue. One concern was the upcoming sale of the high school property.

“We want to stay closely attuned to what happens at the sheriff’s sale. Who’s buying it? What do they want to do with it? Are they open to community involvement?” said Nate Holt, a member of Tonya Bah’s campaign for City Council.

At the conclusion of the event, Michaela Winberg, a reporter at Billy Penn addressed the role community journalism plays in bringing issues like this to light.

“There’s a lot of disengagement with journalism right now because people don’t feel connected to the stories that major news outlets are reporting, they feel really far away from politics and from city issues sometimes, but nobody ever feels far away from issues like this,” she said.

“The Billy Penn audience was pretty taken aback. It was surprising to them that something like this would happen. That the school district would unload such a resource that could be used by the community.”