by Sue Ann Rybak
Almost a hundred people turned out for Jumpstart Germantown’s first Developers’ Network Meeting held on May 28 at the newly renovated Greatness is in You! Drama School and Performing Arts Center, 4811 Germantown Ave.
Jumpstart Germantown is an initiative spearheaded by Philly Office Retail to promote the revitalization of Germantown through high quality residential renovations.
“The idea behind Jumpstart Germantown is to provide information and resources to residential developers,” Ken Weinstein said. “Jumpstart Germantown was created with the idea that community developers are not in competition with each other,” he said.
Germantown resident Nancy Deephouse, a developer who is coordinating the meetings, said by sharing resources such as contractors, vendors and potential properties, developers can “work together to become more productive and profitable.”
“The biggest road blocks to people developing are experience, knowledge and money,” Weinstein said. “Through mentoring, networking and providing financial resources to developers, we can make Germantown a better place to live, work and play.
“We have endless work here. All we have to do is give people the resources they need and let them have a piece of the pie. My vision for Germantown is that all the commercial and residential buildings become renovated and occupied. And that our neighborhood is vibrant and safe with lots of pedestrian traffic.”
So far, About 72 people have applied to participate in Jumpstart Germantown’s Mentoring Program. Weinstein said priority will be given to minority and women investors. Each mentoring session consists of nine hours of instruction. Participants will gain a working knowledge of real estate acquistion, financing construction, leasing and property management.
“I am overwhelmed with the turnout tonight,” Weinstein said. “It’s clearly pent-up demand for the type of information and resources that we are trying to share with financial developers. Residential Development is not easy. You have to hustle to make it work.”
Weinstein challenged developers to take the knowledge that he is offering and start their own project.
One attendee asked Weisnstein what feedback he has gotten from local residents about recent residential developments in Germantown. He replied that “so far, the reaction has been positive.”
“Our goal is not to come in and knock down dilapidated houses and build new construction,” he said. “It’s scattered site development. The goal is to improve our community one house at a time.”
Germantown resident Tieshka Smith called the meeting exciting.
“It’s exciting because it means that a lot of work is beginning to pay off in terms of bringing people into the conversation about how to make Germantown a better place to live, work and play,” she said.
Smith attended the Developers’ Network meeting to “learn more about how people [in the community] would be brought into the process of developing residential properties.”
“Hearing Ken Weinstein’s vision for Germantown and why he decided to launch Jumpstart Germantown gave me a lot of confidence in his plans, and seeing the diverse and energized turnout at the meeting affirmed for me that Jumpstart Germantown is something that the community wants,” she added. “It’s very clear that he wants to respond to the needs of the community and wants to partner with the community to achieve a shared vision of a better Germantown.”
Gabriella and Oliver Somoza, both participants in the program, recently purchased a property on the 4900 block of Rubicam Street under the guidance of Weinstein and his colleagues.
“There are so many great things about Jumpstart Germantown,” Oliver Somoza said. “What Ken is doing is by providing mentorship to smaller developers and encouraging them to come to the neighborhood to fix a lot of the dilapidated properties, will in the long run, improve the community and support the local businesses.
“We think it’s a great program and we are very excited to be involved in it,” he said. “We thank Ken and his whole team for providing this opportunity to us.”
Another attendee, Andrew Trackman, executive director of Germantown United Community Development Corporation, said while the CDC’s focus is on revitalizing business corridors – “residential and business development goes hand in hand – because businesses need customers.”
“To see this residential redevelopment happen is exciting for me and our efforts to try and revitalize the business corridors and the business community,” said Trackman.
Stan Smith, a partner at Philly Office Retail with over 25 years in real estate, said that Jumpstart Germantown is a great opportunity for him to share his knowledge with young developers.
“One of the beauties of our mission is that as you grow, you begin to realize the impact you are having – simply by improving one house at a time,” he said.
For more information about Jumpstart Germantown go to phillyofficeretail.com/jumpstart-germantown.