PlanPhilly

Local developer Ken Weinstein discusses plans for NW Philadelphia in 2014

The coming year is going to be busy time for development in Germantown and Mt. Airy if Ken Weinstein has anything to do with it — and he often does.

Weinstein has several large projects in the pipeline, he told NewsWorks in an interview last week, and he foresees some important turning points for Germantown in 2014.

In early December, Weinstein's PhillyOfficeRetail signed an agreement of sale for Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Germantown and East Mt. Pleasant Avenues. The magnificent Gothic church was built in 1883, and additions in the 1920s and 1950s that extended the building and gave it an L-shaped layout. Its congregation has maintained the building well, but now needs outside support.

Weinstein plans to lease the sanctuary back to the congregation and renovate the remainder of the property into 20 condominium units and possibly a theater space that would enhance downtown Mt. Airy after dark.

"It's really a win-win," Weinstein said. "The size of the congregation is down, and they're not able to keep up the building anymore. This project will take a congregation that is struggling financially and make them solvent in the long term. And we're able to take a building that is less than fully occupied and make something great out of it."

At a time when the vacancy rate of large former church buildings is rising, the plan for Mt. Airy Presbyterian is a positive sign.

"That's the thing about adaptive reuse," Weinstein said. "You have to look at a building and get a feel for what it can be converted into. You walk into this building and because of the shape of the 20th-century additions, it molds itself into residential units. It has windows in the right place, it has hallways in the right place, it has lots of ways to get in and out. We already have a location sited for an elevator that will make some units handicap-accessible. The building just has the right feel to it."

The potential theater would be on the lower level in what had been assembly space for the church. Across the hall is a large commercial kitchen that could complement a dance studio or theater.

Over the past decade, the church's neighborhood has experienced revitalization that includes the addition of popular restaurants on the avenue. "So this building lends itself to something that brings more nightlife to the area," said Weinstein, who said renovation of the church could begin in the summer.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Historic preservation reporter

ajaffe@planphilly.com

B.A., Temple University

Alan Jaffe writes about historic preservation issues for PlanPhilly and focuses on often overlooked built landscapes in his column, “Look Up!” He
was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”


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