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Redevelopment at University City High School hits a snag

By Tom MacDonald for NewsWorks on Jun 9, 2014 12:27 PM
Photo: Nathaniel Hamilton/NewsWorks Photo, file

Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell

Redevelopment plans for a former Philadelphia high school are hoping to get back on track after hitting a roadblock.

After introducing a bill that would make zoning changes for the project, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell was outraged when the proposed redevelopers of University City High School tried to push through Council amended plans for the property.

"You're not trying to work with any of us, you come in and you hand an amendment out and you say you're willing to work with me?" she said incredulously. "You didn't come in with any community agreement. What do you think this is? Who do you think we are?"

Drexel University is proposing a mixed use for the facility that was shuttered a year ago. It's buying the property for more than $25 million from the Philadelphia School District, which is trying to raise money by selling many of the schools that it closed.

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Comments (5)

Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 9, 2014 6:07 pm
I am no fan of Jannie Blackwell. However, in this situation, I agree with what she is doing. There is a lot of pressure to seal the deal because so much money is at stake. However, the urgency for the money should not supercede the process of community involvement. Last time I checked, The School District of Philadelphia is a PUBLIC entity. Therefore, the University City HS property is public property. Therefore, the public, particularly the community in which the property lies, has a right to have its voice heard in the process. I can understand why members of the community around UCHS don't trust the process. Penn and Drexel are taking over this area. The process for the school closings last year was very rushed and did not adequately respond to the concerns of the affected communities. So if the SDP doesn't sell the propery by the end of June, really, they have to look in the mirror and take some of the blame because of the lack of transparency during the school closings process. This is a large property and what happens to it will significantly impact the community. The plan for the property should involve careful planning and REAL community input, not just token community input.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 10:07 am
Great formula for provincialism. This project impacts everyone in the city. Why should only the adjacent "community" have input. Why should Blackwell be able to hold the city back because some of her hacks aren't getting kickbacks (what is actually happening here). This sort of thinking is why Philadelphia government is an incompetent mess. The stuff I heard the "community" is looking for- height restrictions- is idiocy, pure and simple. This is a major undeveloped plot between two major transit lines. There is no reason for height restrictions and it would harm the city (and school district) to let the stupid and provincial dictate Philadelphia's growth.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 10:51 am
This is no way about the community and public having any kind of input whatsoever. This is about shaking Drexel down for money to a favored developer/"community group." Emphasis on the quotation marks. "Blackwell, who records show accepted a campaign donation from Young, also arranged a funding agreement for MCIC with nearby Drexel University. The $300,000-a-year deal was described by sources as emerging from “a handshake agreement” — one that the institution rarely officially acknowledged. As MCIC’s profile expanded, Young’s role as president of the group became a lucrative paid position. But that wasn’t his only job. 'I’m also a developer,; Young says."
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 11:49 am
From the City Paper article: "Last month, Drexel announced it had elected to cut off its annual grant to MCIC. It’s easy to see why the university might have been leery: MCIC refuses to disclose its board members or sources of revenue, both on its financial-disclosure forms and when asked directly by this reporter, and failed to register with the state’s Bureau of Charitable Organizations. Because MCIC isn’t a registered charitable organization, it is not technically allowed to accept individual donations. Nonetheless, faced with the loss of its primary source of revenue, MCIC hosted a $250- to $3,000-a-head fundraiser in late September, with Blackwell and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. billed as guests." In this case I'd ask, "Who is the 'community' that is objecting?"
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on June 10, 2014 8:32 am
Blackwell is just mad that she isn't getting a cut.

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