Neighbors Unite to Save Historic Germantown YWCA Building

The Friends to Save the Germantown YWCA group petitions Mayor Nutter to step in and save the Y.

Photo | Jill Saull

Photo | Jill Saull

While Councilwoman Cindy Bass remains locked in a battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and developer Ken Weinstein about the future of the Germantown YWCA, concerned neighbors have joined forces to help secure what happens to it now. The building has sat vacant for some time and its condition, rundown at best, is rapidly deteriorating due to neglect. Neighbors fear that it will be lost should it sit much longer.

The newly-formed Friends to Save the Germantown YWCA have a petition circulating the internet this week that calls for the City of Philadelphia to take charge and fund the necessary improvements needed to “stabilize” and  save the landmark building adjacent to Vernon Park. “The petition is focused solely on preventing demolition, and stabilizing and securing the building for a future use. That is the common ground that co-signers share,” said Emaleigh Doley, a resident of Germantown and member of the Friends group, in an email. “Many of us have different opinions as to what should happen next but we know this building won’t exist as part of Germantown’s future if something is not done to protect it now.” As of today, the petition has 400 e-signatures.

Fellow member and co-signer Yvonne Haskins backed up Doley, “With so many voices, we succeeded in getting focus when we said “stabilization…period.”  Haskins called the Y an “indelible landmark” that frames Vernon Park, which is slated for $1 million in improvements.  Most people might not know that the just-under-100-year-old Germantown YWCA has a remarkable history. It was the epicenter of advocacy for equal rights as women started to enter the workforce and later became a haven for civil rights.

PRA wants to sell the property to Weinstein for $15 million. He wants to put a residential project geared towards low-income senior citizens in the building. He’d also redevelop the vacant lot, which he owns, next to the Y. Councilwoman Bass envisions a market-rate complex in the form of apartments, retail or even a community center.  The neighbors, well they just want the impressive building designed by Louis H. Rush to stick around for another 100 and some odd years. As Inga Saffron recently pointed out, Councilwoman Bass isn’t wrong, “it’s Bass’ timing that’s bad, and now she risks dooming the building.”