The Northeast Community Center on Holme Avenue wasn’t empty for very long as new tenants from Lighthouse Chapel International moved in last month, but the community is still concerned with the parking and the pool.
TD Bank foreclosed the property one year ago when the owners, Phoenix Horizons, Inc., filed for bankruptcy and could not pay back the $1.1 million they borrowed to build an addition.
Rumors of possible buyers filled residents’ ears but no one seemed likely except for Sant Properties, who came into play last spring. Unfortunately, the owners of Sant Properties, brothers Ravinder and Hardeep Chawla, known for their previous legal issues, backed out of buying the property because they couldn’t find tenants.
Since then, Jeff Fuchs, owner of Sabra Properties, bought the Northeast Community Center in October.
Fuchs comes from a background of working with communities as an ex-Vice President of the Klein Branch of Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia as well as being the President of Four Quarters Project, a multi-faith teen educational program. He still currently co-owns FLiCK Table Tennis and Performance Center, where he also coaches table tennis players.
“I wanted to make the place something the community can use,” said Fuchs, who first sought out the previous tenants to give them back the space.
With no such luck, Fuchs moved on and has been in contact with Home Circle Civic Association (HCCA) President Elsie Stevens about the wants and needs of the community, which included a day care or ‘infant school type.’
“I wanted to do my due diligence and listen to the needs of the community,” Fuchs said.
He was able to find interested tenants for the building.
The Philadelphia chapter for Lighthouse Chapel International is a small congregation of about 120 adults located on Rhawn Street. Lighthouse Chapel International is a non-denominational Chrisitan organization that was started in Africa by Dag Heward Mills and now has 1200 branches in 61 countries.
The church group plans on using the space for possibly a type of ‘meals-on-wheels’ program for the needy in the Kensington area and will be holding activities on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, which was announced by Stevens at the Holme Circle Civic Association meeting in October.
Fuchs’ has spent the month since the sale cleaning up, making repairs and updating the space for the new tenants. Fuchs said most of the work revolved around cleaning up a year’s worth of vandalism.
“It was in pretty bad shape,” said Fuchs.
The damage included busted, leaking pipes, a leaky roof, broken glass and broken alarm systems. He also mentioned that there was a fire and that the fire extinguishers had gone off, soaking everything.
After the renovations and a fresh coat of paint, Fuchs said he’s in the last stages of cleaning up.
A day care was also rumored to be moving into the 18,000-square-foot building but according to Fuchs, the day care operator is still in the process of getting a license and may have to re-examine the building’s zoning for a day care center.
“It’s not happening right now but we’re still looking to possibly revisit it,” said Fuchs.
The community has two major concerns with the use of the community center, though: the parking and the pool.
The small parking lot is only capable of holding 25 cars and most often, people end up parking all along Holme Avenue, which has been a problem in the past. Holme Avenue is one of the busier roads in the community and the Northeast Community Center sits on a curved bend that can create blind spots.
“It gets really dangerous, especially when kids are getting in and out of the cars,” said Sam Greiner, a local resident.
Problems also arose with parents dropping off and picking up their kids. The small parking lot couldn’t handle cars coming in to park as well as cars just stopping and waiting.
“There was always mayhem going on in that little parking lot,” said Greiner. “Parents got used to picking their kids up in the back where there’s more room.”
Yet, that solution only clogged up the small neighborhood roads that the center backs onto.
The previous owner, at one point, had plans to expand the car lot around the back to add an additional 25 spots but nothing ever came to fruition.
The use of the Olympic-size pool also gravely upsets many community members. The main problem with finding an operator for the pool is usually the costs that come with maintaining the pool’s filtration system, as well as handling the operating costs such heating it throughout the winter.
“I’d love to find a tenant who can take care of it,” said Fuchs. “The community really wants it. I’m still actively looking for someone to open it up.”
If no one does make use of the pool, Fuchs has considered filling it in.
Fuchs is also still looking for any other tenants who might want to share the space and make it more useful to the community as a whole. Lighthouse Chapel International will not necessarily need all 18,000 square feet.
However, this may run into issues with the zoning board – especially in regards to parking, as the building would turn from single-use to multi-use.
Though the HCCA has been the most active community organization because of its proximity to the Northeast Community Center, the Mayfair Civic Association is actually the Registered Community Organization. The Mayfair Civic Association amended its bylaws two years ago to include the area so that the area would be represented. If zoning issues do arise, Mayfair Civic Association will be handling them.