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Commercial developer founds Jumpstart Germantown to empower new developers

Ken Weinstein heads up Jumpstart Germantown

In 25 years of business, commercial real estate developer Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail has mentored plenty of wannabe real estate developers. Recently, two such novices approached him after a community meeting and asked him to mentor them. He offered to sit down with them together and spend three hours teaching them the basics of development.

From this three hour session came the inspiration for Jumpstart Germantown, an initiative Weinstein is spearheading to drive investment in the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood where he's been investing and working his entire career. This new organization looks to "jumpstart" the neighborhood by mentoring inexperienced developers, connecting them with each other and more experienced developers, and providing loans to spur development. 

"There is great enthusiasm for doing more in Germantown," explains Weinstein. "We totally did not expect this much energy and enthusiasm this quickly. It's clear that what we're offering has struck a nerve."

One of those original novices who approached Weinstein is Nancy Deephouse. He has tapped her to lead the Developers' Network, bringing together inexperienced and experienced developers alike. On May 28, more than 100 people showed up to the first meeting of Jumpstart Germantown's Developers Network at the newly renovated Greatness is in You! Drama School and Performing Arts Center (4811 Germantown Avenue).

Weinstein has also received 79 applications from developers who want to be part of the nine-hour program he's created about development. Only eight at a time will go through the course; the next cycle starts in July. He says he'll make sure each of those 79 get through.  

Jumpstart Germantown will also provide loans of up to 95 percent of the cost of a residential development project. These short-term loans are funded by a $2 million line of credit, which means they could service up to 30 loans at a time. What makes this loan program different from others is that the organization does not have the same loan requirements as a bank. But the hope is that recipients will be able to sell the property or finance it through a bank at the end of 9-to-12 months so that Jumpstart Germantown can exit the loan.

So far they've received five applications and signed deals to provide two loans of approximately $75,000 each. These loans are going to developers who have two and four development projects behind them, respectively.

Weinstein, who got his start in residential real estate, says he could've gotten back into that business but he'd rather help others. 

"I always push mentees strongly to start in residential," says Weinstein. "I'd rather empower others to [revive Germantown's residential real estate]. This is a great, grassroots way to give people the knowledge and funding."

Writer: Rosella LaFevre
Source: Ken Weinstein, Philly Office Retail

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