Future unclear for “Frankford Y”

Buyer of former “Frankford Y” community center told the Northwood Civic Association he is not sure how he will use the property.

Steve Ostroff, buyer of the “Frankford Y” community center, speaks to residents Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Northwood Civic Association meeting. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

The buyer of the former “Frankford Y” community center introduced himself to residents last week at the Northwood Civic Association meeting, but he left many with more questions than answers.

Steve Ostroff, of Huntington Valley, is set to take ownership of the property at 4704 Leiper St. on Dec. 28. However, he told residents Tuesday, Dec. 18, that he doesn’t have any specific plans yet for the building.

Ostroff, who owns a number of rental properties in the area, even asked for suggestions about what he should do with the old community center.

“I just thought it was an interesting property,” he said. “It would be an interesting property to own and to figure out what to do with it.”

Ostroff was met with skepticism from neighbors, several of whom raised concerns about the possibility of a drug rehabilitation center or shelter opening at the old “Frankford Y.” He assured residents by saying he is not looking to establish a rehab or recovery house.

Potential options for the large property include a daycare or school, Ostroff said.

“A daycare would be my main thing, but it’s preliminary so I don’t know,” he said.

It doesn’t look like Ostroff will keep the Frankford Y’s pool. He even suggested filling it in and installing indoor athletic fields.

“In my experience, there’s not really much use for a pool,” Ostroff said, citing insurance and maintenance costs.

Another wrinkle to this story is the Garsed-Bromley Mansion, an 1860s-era house that is on a portion of the property. The mansion is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. It used to be the home of wealthy mill owners and is built in the same style as City Hall and the Union League in Center City.

Ostroff said he appreciates old architecture and plans to fix up the historic house. He also vowed to not tear down or significantly alter the mansion.

The Historical Society of Frankford figures to hold him to that commitment, and several representatives from the group attended the Northwood Civic meeting.

Vanessa Couvreur, a member of the society’s board, said the group wants to make sure significant properties in the neighborhood are put to good use and retain their historic integrity as much as possible.

“We just want to make sure all these places keep standing,” she told the Times.

The “Frankford Y” closed in 2009 and was listed for sale earlier this year. It is currently owned by a local nonprofit, the New Frankford Community Y Inc.

Proceeds from the sale must go to other nonprofits, NCA President Joe Krause said. Attorney Frank Bennett, who runs the nonprofit, said there might not be much left after accounting for the property’s $46,000 water bill and back taxes.

“Almost all of it goes to the city of Philadelphia,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he plans to fight the city and recover some of the money to donate to other nonprofit groups in Northwood area.

In addition, the property is reportedly in poor shape. Ostroff told the Times he does not know how much renovations and repairs will cost.

The site is zoned residential. Ostroff or his representatives would need to return to the NCA or the Frankford Neighborhood Advisory Council before going to the zoning board to obtain a variance to open a commercial business.

In other news from the Dec. 18 NCA meeting:

  • Residents voted unanimously not to oppose a variance for a business office and two apartment units at 1101 Foulkrod St. A deli used to operate on the site, but it was remapped to residential after sitting vacant. The property in not in Northwood’s deed-restricted area.
  • Krause said he has been in touch with the city’s Town Watch Integrated Services about setting up a neighborhood watch in Northwood. He expects a meeting will be held next month for those interested. Check the Northwood Civic Association’s Facebook page for updated information about a possible date and time. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com