Berean Institute is evicted, ordered out by Friday

The Berean Institute along the 1900 blook of Girard Ave. on Monday, July 14, 2008. Yong Kim / Philadelphia Daily News
The Berean Institute along the 1900 blook of Girard Ave. on Monday, July 14, 2008. Yong Kim / Philadelphia Daily News
Posted: September 12, 2012

THE BEREAN Institute has been evicted from its landmark building in North Philadelphia.

The historic school, founded in 1899 to provide job training to African-Americans, has been ordered to "quit, vacate and remove all belongings" from the state-owned building at 19th Street and Girard Avenue by Friday, according to a letter dated Thursday from the state Office of the General Counsel.

The letter was addressed to Dr. Lorraine Poole-Naranjo, president of the Berean Institute, who said Monday afternoon that the school will move to a new location.

"This is just bricks and mortar," Poole-Naranjo said outside the building. "The Berean legacy will continue."

Sources said that a lawyer for Berean has asked the state to give the school 30 days to move out. The lawyer, Vivienne Crawford, said that she had no comment.

Last week, the Daily News reported that both electricity and gas at the building had been turned off. Spokesmen for the Philadelphia Gas Works and PECO Energy Co. said that the utilities were investigating how services had been provided there for years when there was no record of an account.

Theletter from the state said that the sublease Beran's sublease with the state "expired on November 30, 2010 and has never been extended. . . . It is expected that Berean will . . . immediately surrender quiet and peaceful possession of the premises to the Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The letter was signed by David L. Narkiewicz, assistant chief counsel.

A spokesman for the Department of General Services, which manages most real estate owned by the state, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

In addition to stating that Berean's lease expired in 2010, the letter also said:

* "Berean has failed to make any lease payments to the Commonwealth since 2006."

* In 2008, when the state was given a notice of default, "Berean . . . was to pay yearly rent [to the Department of Education] and that it owed a total of $310,778.08."

* "Berean has been holding itself out as the owner of the premises and entering into subleases without written consent of the Commonwealth to approve all subleases."

* "Berean has failed to pay water bills incurred at the premises in excess of $40,000 to the Philadelphia Water Authority."

Former Common Pleas Judge John Braxton, who served as Berean's chairman of the board of trustees when the state was planning to shut down the school in 2008, said Monday: "That was so long ago, I don't know what the status of [Berean] is now."

Contact Valerie Russ at or 215-854-5987

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