The mission of Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of Germantown and its business corridors through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development.
In February of 2018, Germantown United CDC became aware that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) was considering a proposal to refinance $3.3 million in loans––with forgiveness of all back taxes, all utility liens, and all late penalties and interest accumulated over a 25-year period––on 50+ properties concentrated in lower Germantown (an estimated 140+ units of housing).
News of the proposal before the PRA was met with overwhelming outrage. Thanks to substantial pressure, community organizing and advocacy, the PRA rejected the proposal and is moving forward with foreclosure, calling it “the responsible course of action that is best for the Germantown neighborhood and for the ongoing preservation and maintenance of this important affordable housing.” If successful, the PRA will take control of these properties. At this time however, exactly what will happen to these properties remains influx and unknown.
How is Germantown United CDC responding to this timely issue? Germantown United CDC staff and board leadership are working to:
- Stay informed about the complicated and lengthy legal process the PRA is pursuing.
- Assess the short-term and long-term impact this process is having, and will continue to have, on Germantown and the residents most intimately affected by this situation.
- Inform, engage, and empower tenants living in affected properties, near neighbors, and other concerned constituents in Germantown.
- Maintain open lines of communication with a broad base. GUCDC is committed to inclusivity and transparency. If you have information to share, or would like to discuss this issue, please contact us at 215-856-4303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Assist with the dissemination of fact-based information, flyer creation, and distribution.
- Participate in meetings with individual activists, representatives of volunteer civic organizations, and other neighborhood stakeholders. (Two meetings were held at GU’s office on 3/5/18 and 3/15/18.)
- Connect people to people, and people to resources and services.
- Field inquiries from tenants residing in affected properties, representatives of community organizations, activists and neighborhood stakeholders, city officials and representatives, and other interested parties.
- Refer residents affected by this situation to Community Legal Services, an organization that has provided free civil legal assistance to more than one million low-income Philadelphians. A tenants-only meeting will be held on May 23. Contact Rachel Garland at 215-981-3778 or RGarland@clsphila.org for information and assistance.
- Remain accessible and responsive to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and other government agencies and city officials working on this issue, acting as an on-the-ground liaison.
- Attend Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority board meetings, as needed. (PRA board meetings are open to the public and held on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 1234 Market St, 16th Floor, at 4pm.)
- Assist with organizing public community meetings, as needed. (GUCDC’s staff and board leadership supported a community-organized meeting held on May 1, 2018 at Germantown’s Haitien Tabernacle Church of Philadelphia. Over 150 concerned residents attended the packed meeting. City representatives in attendance included: Gregory Heller, Executive Director, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority; Anne Fadullon, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Philadelphia; David Perri, Commissioner, Department of Licenses and Inspections; Cindy Bass, 8th District Councilwoman. View video of the meeting online.)
Why does Germantown United CDC have an interest in this issue? This complicated situation directly affects the lives of a significant population in lower Germantown, in addition to the neighborhood as a whole.
The declining condition of the 50+ properties affected by these loans has blighted the neighborhood for years, with lower Germantown absorbing the worst due to the concentration of abandoned and deteriorating housing conditions. Now, most of the units are vacant. Others are in disrepair. Some are occupied with tenants facing an uncertain future. Most of the vacant properties are unsealed, dangerous and the site of illegal activity and dumping.
- Several of the affected properties are situated directly on the Germantown Avenue business corridor in lower Germantown; the majority of the other affected properties are concentrated on east side unit blocks immediately adjacent to the Avenue. This clustered blight has had a deabilitating impact.
- GUCDC has been working on a Lower Germantown Quality of Life initiative, focused on lower Germantown Avenue, since 2017, and has been in regular communication with Councilwoman Bass, Friends of Germantown NW, the Germantown Masjid, and many other business owners, civics, and RCOs (Registered Community Organizations) serving lower Germantown regarding this.
- Members of the business community in lower Germantown, along with real estate investors and other interested parties have been in contact with GU about the vacant and blighted commercial properties now entangled in the PRA’s foreclosure process.
- The loan recipients being foreclosed on by the PRA are a series of four limited partnerships, originally setup by Greater Germantown Housing and Development Corporation (commonly known as Germantown Settlement), and named: Lena Street Assoc, Blakestone Limited Partnership, Lower Germantown Limited Partnership, and Lower Germantown II Limited Partnership. At the time of their creation, these loans were established for the sole purpose of rehabilitating properties in Germantown to be utilized as affordable housing for our community. This issue also aligns with many of GU’s organizational goals outlined in our five-year strategic plan, including enhancing GU’s work in advocacy and the promotion and facilitation of affordable housing, homeownership, and housing counseling.
On this issue, our staff and board leadership are in agreement with many in the Germantown community who have mobilized to act as a united force against blight supported by public funds––it will be up to our community to demand JUSTICE FOR GERMANTOWN. As such, Germantown United CDC will continue to implement the organization’s mission––to promote and facilitate the revitalization of Germantown and its business corridors through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development
Germantown United CDC’s Management Team
The organization is governed by a volunteer board of directors comprised of representatives of local business, educational and service institutions.
JULIE STAPLETON-CARROLL | Board President | Email
Program Director, Blackstone LaunchPad
UMI HOWARD | Board Vice President | Email
Director, Lippman Family Prize, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
MARK SELLERS | Board Treasurer | Email
Attorney, Treasurer, Historic Germantown
LUKE SMITH | Board Secretary | Email
Attorney, Radice Law Firm
Principal, Aegis Group
President, Hightower Systems
Certified Personal Trainer President, Men Who Care of Germantown
CEO, Acclaim Academy (5615 Germantown Ave)
Edmond J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of Music, University of Pennsylvania
Owner, Books & Stuff Bookstore (23 Maplewood Mall)