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Councilwoman wants plan for reuse of vacant Philly school buildings

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown called for hearings on how to best repurpose the 23 Philadelphia school buildings that will soon become vacant.

vacant school Philadelphia The long vacant Roberto Clemente Middle School in North Philadelphia, photographed last summer. (Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro).

In the wake of the planned closure of 23 Philadelphia schools during the next academic year, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown wants a plan for the reuse of the large facilities that will soon be left vacant.

Brown on Thursday introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell calling for hearings to investigate how to best repurpose the shuttered school buildings.

"Abandoned buildings can quickly become the scourge of a neighborhood if there is no plan in place to secure new tenants or re-imagine the building," Brown said in a statement.

"Prior proper planning makes the difference; by putting together an action plan now, we have the opportunity for creative, innovative ideas that can transform neighborhoods in a positive manner."

Brown in a release cited a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design, which revealed 75 percent of the schools slated to close are located in weak or transitional real estate markets.

Mayor Michael Nutter has as a result directed Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger to organize an effort in concert with School District officials developing a plan for repurposing the properties.

Members of City Council's Committee on Education will now also join in on the collective brainstorming, inviting feedback from city planning experts, developers, residents, community leaders and members of Council, the School District and the Nutter administration.

The Council hearings will also review best practices from cities facing similar challenges, including Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and Cincinnati.

"Our goal is to harness the creativity and brain power from a host of diverse stakeholders to breathe new life into these buildings, energize surrounding neighborhoods and realize new revenue for the School District of Philadelphia," Brown said.

 
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