summit

MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO

The site of the old Summit School in Nether Providence may become green space in the near future.

NETHER PROVIDENCE — More green space should be on the way for township residents now that the fate of a deteriorating former elementary school has apparently been sealed.

Officials were pleased to learn recently that Nether Providence has been awarded a $500,000 grant to be used toward the costs of redeveloping the former Summit School property, on Plush Mill Road. The bulk of the grant, which is coming from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP, will go toward demolishing the building.

“The township is thrilled to have received the grant and looks forward to making improvements to the site now that we have funding in place,” township Board of Commissioners President Matthew Sullivan said.

“We also appreciate the support for the grant application that was provided by (state Rep.) Leanne Kruger and (state Sen.) Tom Killian.”

The township’s engineer, Charles Catania, is currently developing a scope of work that will include razing the building and making some site improvements. Once that is ready, it will go out for bids.

Sullivan said the project will be in line with the RACP grant and a $75,000 grant Nether Providence received from Delaware County Council, with the support of Councilman Brian Zidek. As for the future plans for the site, he said that remains undecided, but “the current focus is on removing the building and doing some site work to improve the park for our residents.”

Assistant township Manager Dave Grady said the original grant application included building demolition, improvements to the parking lots, a walking trail, a snack bar and a small amphitheater. However, there is not sufficient funding at this time for those features.

The goal, he said, will be to demolish the old school within the next year.

“Right now, the board's main focus is on the demolition of the building and the basic site work to make the park more accessible to and useable for our residents,” Grady said.

Until last year, the facility had been used by a group that called itself the Performing Arts Complex of Delaware County and other community-based organizations. However, those groups have vacated the property.

In September 2018, the performing arts group posted a note on its website announcing, “It is with deep regret that we announce after eight amazing years, Stage One is closed for good. Fearful of mold issues, Nether Providence Township decided to close the entire building” as of Sept. 21.

“This has been an amazing journey. We are so proud of all we accomplished and are so grateful for the relationships and support we’ve been able to cultivate. We encourage all of you to continue creating affordable spaces for performance and cultural events. The arts and your communities need you!” wrote its leaders, Alfred and Eleanor Hurd.

Nether Providence acquired the property from the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District in 2016 for $925,000. Financing for the transaction broke down as follows: $600,000 from money left to the township by a couple; $100,000 from a state grant; and the remaining $325,000 from a loan from the township’s sewer fund.

Then last year, an 11-member study committee determined the building there was in such poor shape it should be torn down – a conclusion with which the Board of Commissioners agreed.

The study committee also recommended the development of new athletic fields and a playground; the construction of a community center; and possibly a passive park, bird sanctuary and/or walking trail at the site.

Options considered included complete renovation of the 28,500-square-foot building, sale of the property and continued use of the structure.

Factors that weighed against the last possibility were the size and shape of the complex – a main building with three pod sections; the condition of the roof; the presence of mold; energy-inefficient windows; and the cost of addressing HVAC and electrical systems in poor condition.

The estimated price tag for repairs and renovations was pegged at about $3 million.

“After careful consideration, it is the opinion of the committee that this existing building does not lend itself well as a candidate for adaptive reuse,” the panel told the commissioners last October.

With respect to a community center at the site, the committee stated it was looking at a new 11,500-square-foot building, with the possibility of a 6,600-square-foot expansion at some point.

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