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Lower Germantown school chapel reborn as youth performance hall

In Lower Germantown, developers and activists are sowing the seeds for a dramatic turnaround. Thanks to a $25 million renovation of the nearby Wayne Junction SEPTA regional rail hub, investors are buying up property, anticipating the birth of a transit-oriented neighborhood full of offices, artists and schools.

The site of the former Germantown Settlement Charter School is the latest example of the area's resurgence. The chapel is set to be renovated later this year, becoming a performance hall for GreatnessIsInYou!, a local non-profit.

"The idea behind our organization is to motivate students and youth to achieve greatness by being the greatest version of themselves," explains founder and CEO Kareem Rogers. "With the performance hall, our goal is to teach kids how to express themselves and communicate through the arts."

Purchased nearly a year ago by Philly Office Retail, the site is comprised of 5 buildings on 6.5 acres just blocks from Wayne Junction. When the school closed two-and-a-half years ago, the campus was left to deteriorate. "We’re hoping to bring it back," says Philly Office Retail's Noah Krey. "The chapel was leased a few months ago and will be a big step towards that."

Rogers says the site's location was a major incentive: "It’s right in the heart of the community and has great transit access. Anyone can get here," he explains.

Rogers plans to use the new performance hall as a community hub. So far, plans include a performing arts summer camp that also teaches the business side of writing, theatre and the arts, as well as a family theatre series showcasing classic children’s stories.

GreatnessIsInYou! continues to fundraise, and renovations are expected to run from mid-March through early May.

As for the other properties on site, they are still unoccupied. "We think it could be great for the community if another school took those buildings and set up at the site," says Krey. "That would also make for a great synergy with GreatnessIsInYou! We're open to any use that will benefit the community."

Source:  Noah Krey, Philly Office Retail; Kareem Rogers, GreatnessIsInYou!
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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