Jumpstart Germantown jumps to two more city neighborhoods

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Mount Airy developer Ken Weinstein teaches at Jumpstart Germantown a course he designed to train contractors to buy and rehab dilapidated houses.

Mount Airy developer Ken Weinstein has had many good ideas over the years, but few appear to have captured the imagination as much as his 18-month-old Jumpstart Germantown.

The program, which gathers and trains a force of residential developers to recycle housing in Germantown for resale or rental, is making its way to other city neighborhoods - Kensington and Mount Airy.

"It's a no-brainer," said Matthew Grande, chief operating officer at Shift Capital, which with Impact Services Corp. and New Kensington Community Development Corp. is working to bring the program to Kensington north of Lehigh Avenue.

Shift Capital, whose MaKen Studios at 3525 I Street in Kensington provides rentable space and resources to interdisciplinary artists, businesses, and manufacturers. is "essentially, socially conscious real estate development," Grande said.

For Grande and Casey O'Donnell, Impact's CEO and president, bringing Jumpstart to Kensington would be a way, in Grande's words, "to lift up the neighborhood and the people who live there, not push them out."

"Lehigh Avenue is the line of demarcation culturally and economically," said O'Donnell, noting that the average monthly rent in Fishtown below the avenue is $1,000, $500 and less above it.

Jumpstart offers a way to reach "our goal of figuring out a model of effective, equitable development" for North Kensington, O'Donnell said, "instead of replicating the unaffordability of other neighborhoods."

Mount Airy, Weinstein said, is just a "step behind Kensington" in the Jumpstart process, adding that the program "will look a little different in each neighborhood."

Since Weinstein unveiled Jumpstart Germantown in April 2014, 241 aspiring developers have applied to be considered for the mentoring program, and 110 have taken it so far, he said.

"We are going to get to everyone," Weinstein said, 20 at a time, four times a year - one session just finished, and there will be another one in November.

Of those who have gone through the program since its inception, about 35 percent have taken on projects, he said.

"Single rowhouses are the most common rehabbing projects, which is where everyone should start because they tend to be straightforward," Weinstein said.

Two-thirds of the applicants are new to the game, while the rest have one to five projects under their belts, he said.

There are a lot of Germantown people involved, but there is a mix, too, he said.

How quickly projects are completed varies, Weinstein said. For example, one woman in the program has completed her first project and has been approved for money from Jumpstart's revolving-loan program for a second.

That loan program started with a $2 million line of credit, and "we are $1.65 million in it," Weinstein said. A number of developers already have paid off what they originally borrowed, he added.

O'Donnell and Grande are working to create a similar loan fund for Jumpstart Kensington, "looking at public sources all the way up to the federal level," as well as banks and other private ones, Grande said.

Twenty-five of the 110 people who have gone through the Jumpstart Germantown program are from Mount Airy, as is Weinstein.

"The key to the Mount Airy program is conservatorship," said Weinstein, referring to Act 135, in which a court-appointed third party - in this case, the Mount Airy USA community-development corporation - takes possession and control of a property to make repairs and return it to productive use.

Developers would have access to Jumpstart Germantown's loan fund, and both Mount Airy and Kensington people would go through Weinstein's mentoring program.

"It's interesting about Mount Airy," Weinstein said. "When I said we were expanding there, someone said, 'What does Mount Airy need the program for?'

"I suggested he walk around the neighborhood and take a look."

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472@alheavens

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