Wayne Junction redevelopment moves forward

A historic district in full mutation

Weinstein began investing in the area, a historically black section of the city, in 2011, though his development work in Germantown dates back decades.

The first phase of the revitalization project was completed last year. It includes a craft brewery and barbecue bar and restaurant, which occupies a former pencil factory, as well as an on-site retail bakery up the road. On Saturday, there will be an open house for the soon-to-be-completed Autograph Apartments, a 32-unit building named for Max Levy Autograph Co. who once occupied the property. It’s the first of two mark-to-market apartment buildings Weinstein has planned for the neighborhood, including one coming up on the Berkeley Street lot, which Weinstein named Wayne Junction Diner Apartments, a nod to the Wayne Junction Diner that used to sit down. the corner.

Lots on Wayne and Berkley streets in Germantown where Ken Weinstein plans to build a 9-unit apartment building. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

To date, Weinstein has purchased a total of 13 properties in the area. Almost all of the projects are examples of what the developers call adaptive reuse, occupying restored factories and warehouse structures.

The Diner project, Weinstein’s largest to date, is an exception. The 143-unit building will be built from scratch. Plans include commercial space on the ground floor, including a restaurant built directly into the property, as well as ample parking and a rooftop terrace.

“We saw this as a good opportunity to bring together a lot of adaptive reuse projects both east of this property and west of this property,” said the developer who ran a restaurant in Mt. Airy nearby for two decades.

When completed, the building will almost touch Attic Brewery Company, the brainchild of Laura and Todd Lacey, who opened the award-winning business inside the former pencil factory in January 2020. They opened their business after having left Germantown and then returned to settle in a section of northwest Philadelphia that was unknown to them. The couple bought a house within walking distance of the brewery – their first business.

The Attic Brewing Company and Deke's BBQ on Berkley Street
The Attic Brewing Company and Deke’s BBQ on Berkley Street in Germantown will get neighboring housing from developer Ken Weinstein. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Despite opening up in a pandemic, Laura Lacey said the couple have seen a tremendous response.

And yet, the tall building rising next to it doesn’t make Lacey smile. When construction is expected to be completed in two years, the property may be full of customers. But Lacey said she was more focused on what the project could mean for her slice of Wayne Junction, where she and her husband have invested their life savings.

For Lacey, the roughly 45,000-square-foot land — and the neighborhood — would be better served by businesses, which she says would help solidify the area as a destination for local shopping and entertainment, but also as a source of well-paid jobs. , something the low-income neighborhood could really use.

Why use the Diner bundle for apartments? Apartments can go anywhere, she says.

“Our goal was that when people came to visit Philadelphia and they asked their downtown hotels, ‘Where should I go? What should I see?’ That we want them to say ‘You should totally take a trip to Germantown. Attic Brewing Company exists and it’s amazing. You can rent a bike. Discover a historic site. There is always live music,” she said.

For Lacey, her view of the neighborhood puts her at odds with Weinstein, its landlord. Two years into her five-year tenure, she said she wasn’t sure what she would do when the time was up. For the moment, she does not have the means to move the brewery.

“It’s a bit like David and Goliath,” she said. “We’re up against someone who has all the money and the resources and unfortunately we’re in a position where he thinks what he’s doing is right, and we just feel like we have to. accept.”

For his part, Weinstein said he believes in using a variety of types of development to revitalize an area. Moreover, it is difficult to finance large commercial projects if there is not a significant residential component, he noted.

“And people said they would like to live in and around Wayne Junction so they could get out of bed, get on the train, get to work in the area,” Weinstein said, pointing out that the Wayne Junction train, suitable for commuters. station is a major attraction for development.

A SEPTA regional train passes a building in Germantown
A SEPTA regional train passes behind Ken Weinstein’s new 32-unit rental building at Wayne Junction in Germantown. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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