The William Way LGBT Community Center reopened after the city shuttered it for four days following an anonymous call.
Karen Guss, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, said the complaint was called into the city’s 311 helpline and prompted the department’s operations division to investigate the center’s compliance with property-maintenance codes Aug. 28.
“The inspector visited the site to assess the property’s fire-safety compliance. After seeing construction was being done on the site without any visible permits, he sent a referral to the development-services division to inspect the property,” Guss said.
The center, at 1315 Spruce St., was found in violation of 11 Philadelphia property maintenance codes, including lack of proper building and electrical permits for construction on the property’s third floor, damage to part of the flooring and ceiling, the obstruction of exits and non-working emergency lighting on each floor.
The construction issues on the third floor prompted L&I to issue a stop-work order for the premises Aug. 29 and ordered the staff to vacate pending compliance.
The second violation report read: “On 8/29/2018 the Department of Licenses and Inspections conducted an inspection/investigation of the property and found it in violation of the Philadelphia Code … A re-inspection will be conducted on or about 10/17/2018 to determine compliance with this order.”
The community center reopened Sept. 5, according to a statement posted on its website, which read in part: “The WWCC will be closed to the public … through Sept. 4 due to unanticipated construction.”
Signs on the center’s front doors read: “The center will be closed during Labor Day weekend to complete renovations.” Other signs redirected visitors to various locations throughout the city for rescheduled group meetings.
Chris Bartlett, executive director of William Way, admitted to the misstep of the unpermitted construction and said the center is working with a project manager and a building-safety consultant to address L&I’s compliance requirements.
“We received word from our contractor and architect that we didn’t need permits for rebuilding our archival space on the building’s third floor. That was a mistake and I take full responsibility for that,” Bartlett said. “We apologize to the community for any inconvenience that this necessary work has had. The safety and comfort of all who use the center is our paramount concern.”
The nonprofit center was founded in 1975 and has been housed in its current building since 1997. William Way’s programs include a large archive of local and regional LGBT documents and artifacts, an extensive library and programs in peer counseling, senior services, education, arts and culture.