Developer reaches tentative deal over plans for shuttered Point Breeze school

The Maryland-based developer that wants to transform the former Walter Smith School in Point Breeze into a residential building has agreed in a tentative deal with neighborhood leaders to set aside space in the structure for public use.

Under the proposed agreement, which also includes other concessions, neighborhood activists would drop their objections to the sale of the building at 1300 S. 19th St. to Concordia Group. The dispute has held up Concordia's $6.8 million purchase of the property and four other shuttered classroom buildings from the School District of Philadelphia.

The deal, negotiated by leaders of the Point Breeze Community Development Coalition, still must be approved by a larger group of residents, who will vote during a meeting July 28, according to Deborah Cianfrani, a lawyer for the community group.

The School Reform Commission included the former Smith facility and the four other properties Concordia is seeking to purchase among 11 shuttered schools it voted to sell in September 2014.

Some Point Breeze residents had hoped the Smith building would be acquired by a charter-school operator and mounted a court challenge to the sale of the properties, which also consist of Germantown and Charles Carroll High Schools and Robert Fulton and Abigail Vare Elementary Schools.

In a March ruling, a Common Pleas Court judge halted the transaction, prompting an appeal by the school district.

Cianfrani did not know whether an agreement with the Point Breeze neighbors would necessarily allow Concordia to complete the purchase, due to the ongoing litigation.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said he was unable to comment on the active case. Concordia cofounder William J. Collins said he was awaiting the result of the community vote.

The community group leaders' tentative agreement with the developer includes dedication of 10,000 square feet of the 64,500-square-foot building for potential charter-school classrooms and other community uses.

It also requires that 20 percent of the building's apartments be set side for low-income renters, and for a nearby church to be granted use of the structure's parking lot during services and funerals.

Some community members apparently oppose the deal. Fliers have appeared in the neighborhood, demanding that no part of the building be developed into apartments or condo units.

"Don't let a rich developer gobble up the school we need!" one flier said. "There are some nasty tricks being played at our kids' expense."

Concordia also is working with local developer Greg Hill to redevelop the former Mount Sinai Hospital site in South Philadelphia into 95 townhouses.

jadelman@phillynews.com

215-854-2615 @jacobadelman