Can New Developer Mentorship Program ‘Jumpstart’ Germantown?

Developer Ken Weinstein looks to rehab 30 dilapidated homes this year alone, with a goal of doubling it in 2016.

Boarded up house on West Rockland Street in Germantown | Photo: Emaleigh Doley

Boarded up house on West Rockland Street in Germantown | Photo: Emaleigh Doley

Amidst the hoopla of the renovations and rebranding of The Gallery, a new flagship Wawa and some fuss about parking in South Philly, developer Ken Weinstein launched a program last week that could have an immediate and lasting impact on a struggling area in the Great Northwest riddled with blighted properties that have long-plagued the neighborhood.

Weinstein officially kicked off his “Jumpstart Germantown” mentorship and training program aimed at empowering small scale and novice developers with the know-how and funds to buy and renovate as many of those run down houses as quickly as possible. The “ripple effect”–as he put it–would be that the community of Germantown stabilizes, one rehabbed house at a time. It also wouldn’t hurt to get a lot of these properties back on the city’s tax rolls. There’s only one catch for the free program: applicants must have some connection to Germantown.

There are three points  of emphasis with Jumpstart Germantown: Mentoring, Networking and Funding. Since the program started on Wednesday, Weinstein said they have already gotten 12 applications and expects somewhere in the neighborhood of “50 to 60” by the time the first class of eight developers is selected on May 13. “We have a preference for women and minority developers,” said Weinstein, the president of Philly Office Retail, a development company focusing on commercial real estate. “Clearly, we have a preference for those developing in Germantown.” The sheer amount of interest shows there is a demand for this type of thing and there will be three sessions per year.

The first program is expected to start in mid-May and take place over a nine-hour session that will include among other things guest speakers, information on sourcing properties, networking opportunities, property management instruction and even driving around to construction sites. Weinstein estimates that the newly formed network can “probably produce 30 rehabs in Germantown in 2015, and probably twice that next year.”

“Germantown is loaded with old houses,” said Emaleigh Doley, Germantown resident and co-founder of The W Rockland Street Project. “For the health of the neighborhood, we need to see more rehabs underway, in tandem with larger developments or new construction.”

Weinstein said he wants to create a network of developers who rebuild the community together, not as competing factions, but through a chain of “free flowing ideas” that help bring back the housing stock in the neighborhood. Nancy Deephouse, a developer and Germantown resident, will coordinate the newly formed network by hosting quarterly meetings and communicate regularly through email and social media.

The final piece to the puzzle will be the funding, something that Weinstein called a “roadblock” for those who are looking to get their start in real estate development. JPMorgan Chase has given Jumpstart Germantown a $2 million line of credit and a recent press release states that “approved applicants will receive up to 95% of total cost of acquisition and construction.” Loans will only be given to those project within the boundaries of Germantown.

“We’re off to a good start,” said Weinstein of the early days of Jumpstart Germantown. “If we can give them the tools, they can really start to produce.”

For more info on Jumpstart Germantown, hit up the website.