The W Rockland St Project

What one Philadelphia city block can do to change its future.


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From an Old Resident

Over the years, we’ve received some eyeopening letters from former residents of W Rockland Street and the surrounding blocks. Here’s one from Phil O’Donnell of Cheltenham, who provides a snapshot of life in Southwest Germantown in the 40s and early 50s. Phil lived just around the corner on Wyneva Street and his grandfather lived on W Rockland Street, next to the houses that would later become abandoned. He sent this letter via email in June 2011 after reading Inga Saffron’s news report in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the demolition of the two remaining houses at the corner of W Rockland and Greene Streets. Declared imminently dangerous, the buildings were torn down after Mayor Michael Nutter, who read Saffron’s earlier report on the first annual Grow This Block! planting day, made a surprise visit to the block to see what neighbors were working on. 

——-
Good Morning Emaleigh,

I think what you are doing is wonderful. I could go on and on about the wonderful times I enjoyed when I was a youngster in Germantown. I lived at 63 W. Wyneva St. from the time I was born in Germantown Hospital in 1942 until we moved to Cheltenham Township in 1953. I thought my parents must have hit the “jackpot” (back then there was no legal lottery) because I thought we were moving to the “suburbs” where the wealthy folks lived. My folks even bought the first car that we had in my life, a 1953 Plymouth Savoy.

I was 10 years old and missed walking up to the Acme at Seymour and Germantown Ave. We pulled our wagon to help Mother bring home the groceries! And going to the New Lyric theater matinee on Saturday afternoon (used to be up on Germantown Ave just past the firehouse) was a treat IF we had the $0.10 admission price. We had no car because my father took public transportation to work at RCA in Camden, NJ. He would leave early every day on the #23 trolley car on Germantown Ave. to the Broad St. subway, to the “Bridge Train” that still goes across the Ben Franklin bridge to Camden. And he arrived home every day at the same time.

SEPTA's Route 23 trolley on Germantown Avenue approaching Eerie Avenue on July 13, 1977. Photo by Mike Szilagyi.

SEPTA’s Route 23 trolley on Germantown Avenue approaching Eerie Avenue on July 13, 1977. Photo by Mike Szilagyi.

In 2012, congregants attend the final Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, which sits in-between Logan St and W Rockland St, across from the vacant lot. Photo by Theresa Stigale.

In 2012, congregants attend the final Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, which sits in-between Logan St and W Rockland St, across from the vacant lot. Photo by Theresa Stigale.

My elementary school was right through the alley to St. Francis of Assisi school. My parents had been married at SFoA in the church rectory because my mother was not Catholic and Dad was. My Cub Scout meetings were at SFoA. My Den Mother was Mrs. Conway who lived at 150 W. Wyneva St. in the block between Greene and Wayne Ave. Also in that block at the corner of Greene and Wyneva was the local Unity-Frankford grocery store which was our equivalent to today’s 7-11 convenience store. Wortley’s Drug store was at the corner of Greene and Wyneva, right next to my house. Opposite the drug store, the corner house on Greene at Wyneva was Dr. Scanlon, the dentist. Our playground was Logan Park which is still through the alley across the street from my house. The “big kids” were allowed to go up to “Happy Hollow” playground way up on Wayne Ave. across the avenue from the end of Wyneva St.

The streets were lined with large trees and springtime always smelled so clean to me. The yards all had some kind of flowers in them. I remember Rose-of Sharons and Lilacs that were so strong smelling, it smelled so good. It was officially spring when almost every house put up their awnings on the porch to give some shade from the sun when we sat out on the porch. There was no such thing as air-conditioning.

The house that was just torn down (4817) next to the corner empty lot belonged to the Edward McGinty family. Mr. McGinty was a career Phila. policeman. One of their sons, Joseph went on to become a Phila. policeman. They had five children as I remember and went to SFoA with me.

The next house (4815), if I remember correctly, belonged to the Hepp family who had four or five children. Those kids also went to SFoA. They moved to Ardsley not long after we moved to Cheltenham.

4819, 4817 and 4815 Green St, at the corner of W Rockland St, in 2009.

4819, 4817 and 4815 Green St, at the corner of W Rockland St, in 2009

The empty lot at the corner of Rockland and Greene was a local grocery store where we used to buy penny candy, TastyKakes and Franks sodas. The corner house at 74 W. Rockland belonged to my grandfather, Patrick Francis Xavier O’Donnell. My aunts and uncles all lived there until and sometimes after they were married. Some of my cousins lived there in their early days. It was a large three story house with a lot more room than our two story house right behind it on Wyneva St.. Your site shows many pictures of that house. Just as I remember it.

I’ll stop here before I bore you to tears and again say that what you are doing in my old neighborhood is a wonderful thing. It was/is a great, convenient, fun way of life.

– Phil O’Donnell

74 W Rockland St during Grow This Block! in 2012

74 W Rockland St during Grow This Block! in 2012

Herb quickly learned how to become a master gardener at Grow This Block! in 2012

Herb quickly learned how to become a master gardener at Grow This Block! in 2012

 

Herb's garden in full bloom and the vacant lots in 2013.

Herb’s garden in full bloom and the vacant lots in 2013

October 2013: After the residents at the last two houses on W Rockland St planted gardens, neighbors worked together to install several flower planters along the border of the lot. It began to look like a space people cared about.

October 2013: After the residents at the last two houses on W Rockland St planted gardens, neighbors installed several flower planters along the border of the lot. It began to look like a space people cared about.


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Momentum in Germantown: 30 projects planned for annual Philly Spring Cleanup

Graphic
In its seventh year, it’s time for the City of Philadelphia and the Streets Department to drop mega-trash stats to show and prove just how much we can all clean up during the Philly Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 5. Just how big are the numbers? 1,014,540 pounds of trash collected, 4,030 tires removed and 23,341 pounds of recycling was collected during the 2013 clean up.

In Germantown there will be a huge presence felt all over the neighborhood with 30 official projects registered! Can you feel it? It’s momentum. Keep up the sweep up!

The W Rockland Street Project has two projects planned for the big day – Emaleigh will be working with W Rockland Street Neighbors on a block cleanup and Aine will be leading a cleanup with the Southwest Germantown Business District at Freedom Square (5101 Germantown Avenue).

Sign up to volunteer for a Germantown (or any other neighborhood!) project by clicking here!

Momentum \mō-ˈmen-təm, mə-\ 
the strength or force that something has when it is moving.
the strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes.

stat-trash

Volunteer for one of many project sites in Germantown

Sign up in advance … or just show up to lend a hand!

cleanup_map

1. Lingelbach Elementary School
6340 Wayne Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

2. Hood Clean Up
4901 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

3. SoLo/GCA-WAM Philly Spring Clean Up 2014
Municipal parking lot
4919-25 Wayne Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

4. Friends of Happy Hollow Playground and Community Garden
4800 Wayne Ave (upper level Pulaski Ave and W. Logan St.)
Philadelphia, PA 19144

5. Friends of Loudon
4650 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

6. Neighborhood and Park Cleanup (DIA Clean Up)
Wayne & Johnson Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

7. Germantown Town Hall Cleanup
Germantown City Hall
Germantown and Haines St
Philadelphia PA, PA 19119

8. 6100 Block Germantown Avenue
Cleanup Historic 1770 Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse
6121 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

9. Rockand Street Neighbors
15 W Rockland Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144

10. CHEW and BELFIELD NEIGHBORS CLUB, INC
6200 W. Chew Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19138

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Community Meeting: Adult Daycare at 4811 Germantown Ave? Talk about the future of this property on Tuesday, April 1

Neighborhood Development News
Talk about the future of 4811 GERMANTOWN AVE
“Adult Daycare” proposed by developer Ken Weinstein

Community Meeting: Tuesday April 1 at 6 p.m.
at The DePaul Catholic School
44 W Logan Street

Attend this important community zoning meeting and contribute to the conversation about the development of a new business in Germantown. In February 2014, developer Ken Weinstein with Philly Office Retail applied for a zoning variance to the City of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to open an “Adult Daycare” facility at 4811 Germantown Ave, Building D.

Map

Map of 4811 Germantown Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood. View on Google Maps.

Additional Information

  • 4811 Germantown Avenue is part of the nearly six-acre former Germantown Settlement School campus, which is on Germantown Avenue at the intersection of W Rockland Street and extends all the way back to Stenton Avenue.
  • The campus currently houses two businesses: a private correctional facility and a performing arts space (coming soon). The “Adult Daycare” facility would be the third approved business.
  • A Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing was held about this project on February 19, at which the ZBA board and the Office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass agreed that an additional community meeting with the public was needed.
  • The April 1 meeting is likely the final community meeting about the project. The City is waiting to hear what the community thinks before deciding whether or not to grant the zoning adjustment, which would allow for an “Adult Daycare” facility to move into the space.
  • A change in zoning would also allow for other similar types of businesses to move into the same building in the future.
  • For reference, included below is the letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment written by the Wakefield 49ers, the neighborhood Registered Community Organization responsible for hosting zoning meetings in our area. This letter recaps the first and only public meeting about this project which was held on February 10. At that meeting, all the attendees objected to the proposal.
  • In addition to the Wakefieled 49ers, three other Registered Community Organizations in the neighborhood attended the initial February 10 meeting and wrote letters to the Zoning Board of Adjustment based on community feedback at the meeting. You can read each of the letters by clicking on the links below. Please note, the letter penned by Betty Turner with Germantown Community Connection is the only letter from an RCO written with full support of the project as is. This letter does not reflect the opinions of residents present at the meeting and is questionable based on that fact alone.

Letters from Registered Community Organizations

These letters are based on the February 10 community meeting; they were submitted to the Zoning Board of Adjustment prior to a hearing about this project which was held on February 19.

The W Rockland Street Project’s Point of View 

We are residents of the 100 Unit Block of W Rockland Street – the former Germantown Settlement campus, which includes 4811 Germantown Avenue, is directly across from the top of W Rockland Street. As near neighbors, a development site of this scale has the potential to greatly impact the residents of W Rockland Street.

To think that we are the only people who would be impacted by this project would be to think small. It should not be overlooked that Mr. Weinstein has the potential to direct and shape the development of a significant portion of Germantown Avenue in Lower Germantown.

4811 Germantown Avenue is part of a five building, six acre property. We should not be having a conversation about one building. A comprehensive plan for the site is warranted, one that looks at phasing, parking, lighting, uses, traffic circulation, landscaping, inventory of existing structures, and more.

This should include the adjacent C.W. Schaeffer Public School at 4701 Germantown Avenue, which is also owned by Mr. Weinstein and Philly Office Retail. These large properties front nearly an entire block of the Avenue, less than half a mile away from Wayne Junction Station and Nicetown Court II, the recent transit-oriented development on Germantown Avenue at the Nicetown border.

Will Germantown squander the opportunity to build off of the millions and millions of dollars of investment pumped into Wayne Junction and Nicetown? I sincerely hope not.

In the past year, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has heard three hearings for properties at the former Germantown Settlement campus. Each time a zoning adjustment is needed for a building on the site, community meetings and hearings must be scheduled.

Remember, this is a five building, six acre property. Given the scale, neither the community, nor the Zoning Board of Adjustment, should continue to be asked to consider each piece of property one at a time.

For these reasons, and many others, I made it a point to testify at the ZBA hearing on February 19 (also attended by Aine Doley), in which I asked that a second community meeting be held before a decision could be rendered by the ZBA. Thankfully, the ZBA board has agreed that an additional meeting with the public is needed but it will be up to residents of the community to attend and offer their opinion.

Get Involved

If you just want to learn more, or simply don’t approve of the project, please attend the April 1 meeting.

If you have concerns, you can also email Julie Chapman and Michelle Rand at the Zoning Board of Adjustment and call/email Councilwoman Cindy Bass.

Don’t delay! The Zoning Board of Adjustment will be making a decision about this project soon.

Zoning Board of Adjustment
1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Room 1140
Philadelphia, PA 19102
EmailJulie Chapman, Chair of the ZBA Board, julia.chapman@phila.gov
Michelle Rand, michelle.rand@phila.gov

Office of Councilwoman Cindy Bass
City Hall, Room 594
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
Email/Call: Councilwoman Cindy Bass
Cindy.Bass@phila.gov, (215) 686-3424


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Unions protest Germantown development projects

St. Peters Episcopal Church in Germantown (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

St. Peters Episcopal Church in Germantown (Photo by Bas Slabbers for NewsWorks)

Are escalating union protests one sign that a neighborhood is on the upswing?

Developer Ken Weinstein, who’s company Philly Office Retail is a fixture in Northwest Philadelphia, recently sent out the appeal below to neighborhood residents, in response to a protest by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union.

Weinstein did not hire IBEW members for his Waldorf School campus development, which is now underway at the long vacant St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, located on the 6000 block of Wayne Avenue in Germantown. Instead of protesting in Germantown however, IBEW is targeting Weinstein’s customers at The Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy, hoping to disrupt business at the friendly neighborhood restaurant.

The historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was designed by noted Philadelphia architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt, and listed on the Preservation Alliance’s annual endangered properties list in 2010. The religious buildings are now being adapted to function as a school campus for pre-K through 8th grade students.

In his letter to neighbors, Weinstein says he is investing nearly $6 million into the project, which after years of neglect, requires extensive restoration.

Elsewhere in Germantown, union activity continues outside of the Post Brothers’ Rittenhouse Hill apartment towers, at at Rittenhouse Street and Wissahickon Avenue. (Note to self, buy stock in yard signs.) As development interest grows in Germantown, expect to see more protests around development activity, whether they spurred on by unions or residents themselves.

Union protest signs outside of The Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy (Photo via Chestnut Hill Local)

Union protest signs outside of The Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy (Photo via Chestnut Hill Local)

Inside St. Peter's (Bas Slabbers for NewsWorks)

Inside St. Peter’s (Photo by Bas Slabbers for NewsWorks)

Read Ken Weinstein’s email to friends and neighborhood leaders below. Learn more about the Waldorf School project and view photos of the church campus at:

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Ken Weinstein <Ken@phillyofficeretail.com>
Date: Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 3:52 PM
Subject: Really need your help

As a friend, I am writing to seek your help and support. I am being personally attacked for not hiring IBEW (electrical workers union) members for my development project converting a long vacant and deteriorated property in Germantown into a vibrant and active Waldorf School campus. IBEW members were stationed outside Trolley Car Diner this morning handing out flyers with my picture and cell phone number listed.

Below are some facts that IBEW may want to consider before trying to turn customers away from the Diner:

  • We are investing nearly $6 million into this positive Germantown development. It is the largest investment in Germantown in many years.
  • We returned this property to the real estate property tax rolls after years of no tax revenue.
  • We are saving several Frank Furness designed buildings on this 1.5 acre campus. These buildings were listed by the Preservation Alliance as one of the most endangered historic properties in the Philadelphia region.
  • This project uses no government funding, other than historic tax credits that were recently awarded to this project in exchange for preserving the structures.
  • Unlike members of IBEW, a majority of our contractors hired are from the northwest Philadelphia community and are racially diverse.
  • Unlike IBEW, our chosen general contractor, McCoubrey/Overholser, is based in Mt. Airy and invests heavily in our community.
  • This project will create nearly 100 temporary and permanent jobs and will allow the Waldorf School to add students and grow.

I do not appreciate this personal attack and I will not stay quiet while they spread lies and misinformation about our projects designed to revitalize our neighborhoods. I will put up my record of revitalizing our region’s urban communities, anytime, against the efforts of IBEW to shut down projects that positively impact our community.

I am asking you to visit Trolley Car Diner in the next couple days to let the protestors outside the Diner know that you don’t agree with their position and that they are doing a disservice to the community by trying to discourage people from visiting the Diner and shutting down our Waldorf School development project. If you want to be sure that the protestors are there when you visit, feel free to call the Diner at (215) 753-1500. They know that you may be calling to check.

I don’t care whether or not you stay to eat at the Diner, just that you let the protestors know that they do not have the support of our community and that they should support my efforts to make northwest Philadelphia a better place to live, work, learn and enjoy. Please ask the protestors to tell their leadership that they are not helping their cause by camping outside the Diner with their threatening signs and flyers.

They say that you know who your friends are when times get tough. I am blessed to have many good friends who have a common vision for our community and City.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information. I would love to hear feedback on your visit to the Diner when you get a chance.

Thanks,
Ken

———-


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Southwest Germantown Designated a PhillyRising 2.0 Neighborhood

phillyrising-logoWe are excited to announce that Southwest Germantown has been selected to be a part of the City of Philadelphia’s PhillyRising 2.0 initiative. With an undeniable groundswell of community engagement enveloping Germantown right now, our neighborhood is poised to work hard with our new partners at PhillyRising.

The W Rockland Street Project is looking forward to working alongside SoLo (Southwest Lower Germantown Civic Association) and many other neighborhood partners and friends, old and new.

The PhillyRising Collaborative is the City of Philadelphia’s new way of doing business. PhillyRising targets neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia that are plagued by chronic crime and quality of life concerns (sadly, that’s us), and establishes partnerships with community members to address these issues (we can do it!). The PhillyRising Team coordinates the actions of City agencies to help neighbors realize their vision for their community through sustainable, responsive, and cost-effective solutions. Together, residents and the City government can keep Philly rising!

Primary Objectives

  • Fight crime and the fear of crime; including terrorism
  • Build sustainable, responsive solutions to the concerns of people living and working in each neighborhood
  • Develop cost-effective methods for improving service delivery to each neighborhood
  • Help those living and working in the PhillyRising neighborhoods to realize their vision for their community

Learn more at phila.gov/PhillyRising and stay tuned for official details about the Germantown project!

Alleyway cleanup in Frankford.

Alleyway cleanup in Frankford.

Northwest Division's Jimmie Sanders with volunteers.

Northwest Division’s Jimmie Sanders with volunteers.

Go behind the scenes with PhillyRising on facebook.com/phillyrisingmdo and see the work the collaborative has done in neighborhood’s across the city.

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Snow On The Block: Sidewalks Are For Everyone (S.A.F.E.)

Photo by @ainedoley

Photo by @ainedoley via Instagram. Monday, February 3, 2014.

Sidewalks are for everyone. 

It doesn’t really matter where you’re going or how you get there, just remember mostly everyone in the city has to step foot on a sidewalk. Whether you’re walking around the corner to the bus stop or 10 feet to your car, a few blocks to school or back and forth all day to the corner store – sidewalks are for everyone and everyone uses sidewalks!

About 60% of the households on West Rockland Street house awesome and/or responsible people who adequately cleared the snow from their sidewalks, so far this winter. The other 40% are f@$k!^g it up for everyone!

West Rockland Street is sloped, which makes navigating icy surfaces extra tricky. We hate seeing kids and adults slipping and sliding along the sidewalk every time they cross a patch of un-shoveled snow, or worse, walking in the middle of the street to play it safe. 

Want to keep people in your neighborhood safe in the snow, or simply avoid being fined when someone reports you? Clear your entire sidewalk. Don’t just create one of those little channels that cuts through the snow, the walls always cave in and you’ll be back where you started. It’s really not that hard. 

PS: You can make a lot of money shoveling snow, even in Germantown! So sick of hearing lazy people talk about how they used to go to other neighborhoods and shovel and make a mint but “people in the ghetto don’t want to pay.” I would pay you if you STFU and got to work!

PSS: Coincidentally, “Sidewalks Are For Everyone” also stands for S.A.F.E. 

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

Report a sidewalk that has not been cleared

To report a sidewalk or curb cut that has not been cleared, residents may call the Streets Department Customer Affairs Unit at (215) 686-5560. For all City services dial, 3-1-1 (or 215-686-8686).

The official rules for snow removal in Philadelphia are included below. If you have any other questions about snow in the city, the Philadelphia Streets Department has all sorts of fascinating information posted at philastreets.com

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

This is what the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

This is what the rest of the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

Philadelphia Code 10-720 Regarding Snow Removal From Sidewalks

According to Philadelphia Code (10-720),

“(1) the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premise shall clear a path of not less than 36″ in width on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within 6 (six) hours after the snow has ceased to fall. The path shall be thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Where the width of any pavement measured from the property line to the curb is less than 3 (three) feet, the path cleared may be only 12 inches in width. When the building in question is a multifamily dwelling the owner or his agent shall be responsible for compliance with the requirements of this section.”

(2) Snow or ice removed from sidewalks, driveways, or other areas shall not be placed or piled in the street.

(3) Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to the provisions and penalties set forth in 10-718 and 10-719.

The penalty for violating this provision can range from “a minimum fine of fifty dollars ($50) to no more than three hundred dollars ($300) for each violation.”

Private plows piling snow in the street after city teams have cleared the road is illegal as well as a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.

via philastreet.com

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