Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Barry Bridge Ramps pay for Ruth L. Bennett Home Restoration

Ruth L. Bennett Home & Wilson Nursery
In June, I commented on my disgust of the current state of the Ruth L. Bennett Home for Women and Girls and the adjoining Wilson Nursery. What I learned as a result of that blog post was incredible. Click HERE.
Shortly after the post, I received a call from someone offering me the opportunity to join them in an effort to restore the Wilson Nursery. I wasn’t interested in taking on that project, but I didn’t say no right away.
After making a couple phone calls, I learned that PennDot had earmarked one million dollars to restore those two buildings from money set aside from the new ramps on the Commodore Barry Bridge. I spoke to the project manager who confirmed that money would soon be released and plans completed for the building  restorations.
For $1 million, I would think the money would be better spent razing the buildings and building something new, but it’s not my money. There's some historic preservation thing preventing a new start, too.
The project manager passed my name on to the engineer who invited me to the meeting where they presented the new restoration plans to the Ruth L. Bennett Improvement Club, the group who manages two buildings. The meeting was held at the Elks Club in early October where the engineer and architect reviewed the project history and presented the restoration plans and drawings to about a half dozen people, some of whom were not members of the Improvement Club, and several of the Improvement Club members were not present.
I was flabbergasted!  These guys are really going to spend $1 million to restore these two buildings. What a gift to the city of Chester.
However, The Ruth L. Bennett Improvement Club has no plans for the restored buildings. There is no planning going on for future use of either property. When the keys are turned over to the Improvement Club, there will be two amazingly restored buildings with no security, no furniture, no curtains, no paint, no light bulbs, no appliances, no tenants, no insurance, and no source of income to maintain the upkeep.
There was talk that Delores Freeman would move her Nia Center into the Wilson Nursery but unless that program grows by leaps and bounds, I can’t see them being capable to even afford the electric bill with the shiny new central air-conditioning and heating system that will be installed.
In the spirit of economic development, these buildings should command market rate or above for rental space. These will be the newest buildings in Chester and they're historic. What is market rate two blocks from PPL Park?
I offered my assistance to help them put a project plan together to be ready for the November 2013 grand opening, but I haven’t heard a word from anyone.
Unless someone steps in to save this project, it’s going to be a grand flop when it could and should be a grand ribbon cutting. 


  1. I am confused, why are they refurbishing the buildings and not doing anything with them?

    1. THEY #1 is PennDot. They felt the need to refurbish the historic certified building as a result of building the ramp almost on top of it.

      THEY #2 are the board members who are responsible for those buildings but have done nothing but let them rot.

      THEY #1 will restore the buildings for THEY #2 to operate according to the original intent for the buildings, although the house will be restored with office space instead of as a boarding home.

      THEY #2 are excited about the restoration but have no plans beyond that.

      It's not too late to start planning, but from what I saw, they need a lot of help...to put it nicely.

  2. This is another example of wasteful spending on the government level. Lets dump a million dollars of taxpayer money into a project that is going nowhere. Demolish the buildings because nobody cares about them. If someone cared they would not be in the condition they are today. Lets take a ride around the city and look at all the abandoned buildings that nobody cares about. Should the state kick in millions of dollars to rehab them too?

    Demolish the buildings, place the land up for sale, recoup the expense to the taxpayers for the razing of the buildings, and the board can figure out what to do with the rest of the money.

    Projects like this that are funded by the State of Pennsylvania are a prime example of why the State is going broke. It's why the State has less and less money to give to ailing schools like Chester Upland.

    If the State is feeling generous with A Million Bucks, take that money and put it towards fixing the 7th St. Bridge. Maybe fix the Lloyd St. Bridge. Do something that benefits everyone, not just a negligent board who owns some dilapidated property. By your own story, members of the board can't even attend the meeting, and obviously they have no plans because the current state of the buildings show they have no money and no interest. If it sits vacant, thieves will destroy it stealing the HVAC, copper, wiring, and anything else of value and all that will be left is a renovated version of a vacant building.

    1. Preach!

      The only thing I can clarify is that their own board members didn't attend because they were not invited, making matters even worse.

  3. The building with its rich history is considered a Historical edifice here in the city.
    I also believe it has some relationship to another Historical site - the former church home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Calvary Baptist Church.
    Before we ‘kick a gift horse in the mouth’, some discussion needs take place.
    Look into the original utilization of this building. Maybe it could be used again for the same purpose.
    PennDot definitely is going to proceed with their project; so perhaps a commission needs to be put together in an effort to approach some viable initiatives for this site. Any takers???

    1. Yes, Calvary Baptist Church offspring still are part of the board.

      The purpose of this blog post is to inform anyone willing to step to the plate.

      The building will not be a boarding house again for zone reasons.

      Good luck with your involvement.

  4. Unfortunately no one is telling the story of who these people are. Who is Ruth L Bennett and who did she help? How many women and children did she help? Who will tell the school children the history? Let's make the Mayor and City Counsel do what they are supposed to do by putting it on the agenda.