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Jumpstart program for aspiring developers eyes expansion

Mantua and Strawberry Mansion may be next

The tops of a rowhomes with a church in the background.
Jumpstart, a mentoring program for aspiring developers, started in historic Germantown.
Courtesy of Shutterstock

When developer Ken Weinstein began his Jumpstart Germantown program in 2015, part of the reason he did so was to take some responsibilities off his plate.

“Jumpstart really started because I saw a need out there,” Weinstein said. “I was receiving more and more inquiries every week from a newbie developer who wanted to meet with me, and it got so overwhelming that I decided to start saying ‘no’ to people.”

That’s when Weinstein decided to launch Jumpstart Germantown, a mentoring program for aspiring developers. He developed a sort of crash-course curriculum on all the ins and outs of developing properties in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, his company Philly Office Retail provided mentees with 85 percent financing for the purchase and acquisition of small, vacant or deteriorated properties.

The program was so successful that after 18 months, Jumpstart expanded its reach to Kensington and Mt. Airy. To date, 151 mentees have graduated from the program and 22 renovated projects have been completed.

And now, with a $125,000 grant from the Barra Foundation and extra help from Philadelphia’s Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Jumpstart is set to grow even more, both online and throughout the city. “It’s really a game-changer for Jumpstart Germantown, because it will allow us to expand to other neighborhoods—and potentially around the country,” said Weinstein.

In order for that to happen, LISC will use a majority of the grant to help Weinstein redesign Jumpstart’s website to make Weinstein’s wealth of knowledge more accessible.

“With these projects, you’re not doing something that’s just flipping and then running away,” said LISC’s Andrew Frishkoff. “You’re not doing something that will be ugly and add to blight. We’re hoping that we can help Ken keep that core set of values when we explore other communities.”

LISC has helped finance a number of Weinstein’s own projects, so the community development office’s familiarity with his success throughout Germantown and Mount Airy made the partnership an easy choice.

The two neighborhoods that Weinstein has his eye on are Mantua in West Philly and Strawberry Mansion, which has experienced an uptick in construction in the last year.

While Weinstein says those neighborhood expansions are still in the early stages, a resolution introduced to City Council by Councilman Derek S. Green in December by could draw even more attention to the program at a city-wide level.

Frishkoff, who met with the councilman in January to discuss the legislation, says Green sees real estate development and small business growth as linked. The approved legislation means that City Council will have hearings about Jumpstart in May or June.

“I think overall that Councilman Green introduced the resolution in order to just help us spread the word and bring together a number of neighborhoods to hear more about the program and how it could benefit each neighborhood,” said Weinstein.

After all, word of mouth how Jumpstart Germantown started in the first place. But despite its growth, Frishkoff says the program’s “small-town” roots will always be the key to its success.

“A lot of the buildings that Jumpstart developers acquire and renovate are very small scale,” said Frishkoff. “They’ll never be in the public eye, but neighbors will be aware, and community residents will benefit. It’s so important to neighborhood fabric.”