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After Hidden City, any progress for Germantown's Town Hall?



In 2013, the Hidden City Festival built a lot of buzz by re-opening the old Germantown Town Hall to the public for the first time in over fifteen years; the building was abandoned in 1997.
After five weeks of programming at the neo-classical national historic landmark at Germantown Avenue and Haines Street, an avid neighborhood consortium formed. Helmed by local artist and architect Charlie McGloughlin, The Town Hall Collaborative -- along with participating groups like the Germantown Artists Roundtable and others -- sought to keep a public spotlight on the building, in hopes of finding a use for it.
So, has there been any progress on a new life for the iconic building constructed in the 1920s? (The site's original Town Hall was built in 1854 and demolished in 1920.)
Due to growing responsibilities at his day job, McGloughlin is no longer leading efforts to re-animate the building. As he told Flying Kite in a February email, "No one else really stepped forward to lead the Collaborative."
Meanwhile, efforts to find a buyer for the 20,000-square-foot City-owned building (dubbed surplus public property) continue, with PIDC handling the marketing and sale. The Fairmount Park Conservancy has also stepped in on the marketing side.
"We continue to show the property," says Senior Director of Preservation and Project Management Lucy Strackhouse. Potential buyers have mulled everything from senior or veterans' housing to artist studios, and there has been an uptick in interest since the recent recession eased.

"The dilemma is that almost everyone who sees the building says we can’t do this without some kind of public subsidy," explains Stackhouse, noting the extensive renovations needed. The challenge lies in coming up with "a use for the property that makes sense for the neighborhood, for Germantown itself, and have some funding."
The closure and sale of Germantown High School makes the vacancy and declining condition of the Town Hall a double punch for the corridor.
"The Conservancy’s been interested in the building because we’ve worked with historic properties throughout the city," says Strackhouse. "It’s such a large, iconic building just up the street from Vernon Park -- where we’ve been working with the Black Writers Museum -- so we’re very concerned that it’s just sitting there deteriorating."
According to Strackhouse, zoning specialist Patrick Jones from 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass’s staff has also been working to facilitate a sale, but Bass’s office did not return a request for comment.
"It’s disappointing," says Strackhouse of the current lack of progress. "We’re hoping we’re going to find that knight in shining armor that’s going to come in and rescue the building, but so far that hasn’t happened."
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Lucy Strackhouse, the Fairmount Park Conservancy

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