The industrial buildings surrounding the
1500 block of N. Bailey Street
in Brewerytown have always been known for making and producing things. But in a tale all too common in urban core neighborhoods, years of neglect and disinvestment have left parts of the neighborhood feeling desolate and forgotten. More recently, however, as a number of artists have moved into these buildings for live-work purposes, bringing with them real estate developers’ interest and money, the area is reinventing itself, once again producing things but with completely different means and ends.
Now dubbed the ‘Bailey Streets Arts Corridor,’ according to local ceramic artist and college professor Michael Connelly, the name is well-earned. “There are now 10 nationally respected ceramics artists living and working within a three-block radius, as well as painters, woodworkers, and a choreographer,” explains Connelly. "Plus, 12 contributing buildings (commercial and residential) along the Corridor are now under the control of local artists and investors."
Connelly has been a chief driver of establishing the arts corridor, and is responsible for attracting other artists to invest. He has also put his money where his mouth is, recently purchasing two properties on North Bailey Street that he hopes to rent out to community artists at affordable prices.
He’s also investing in large renovation projects, more recently converting an old warehouse studio space. He believes this project in particular will help the corridor reach a critical mass and really take off. Working closely with his colleague Robert Sutherland, a ceramic artist and general contractor/builder, they have officially started Phase One work on the project, already securing the exterior walls and conducting interior demolition.
Connelly’s work and the resulting conglomeration of artists along Bailey Street got the attention of development and construction firm, MM Partners LLC
, who saw the corridor’s progress and even bigger potential for increased investment. In no time, the company bought up the famous W.G. Schweiker Co. building
at the intersection of Jefferson and Bailey Street with plans to renovate it into something beneficial to area artists.
According to Jacob Roller, co-managing partner at MM Partners, they immediately went to Connelly to gain ideas about what exactly to do with the building. He recommended converting the space into live-work units for artists, something he saw as severely lacking in the Philadelphia region.
MM Partners is now following Connelly’s advice, filling out the Schweiker building with nine live-work units. Roller hopes the renovated space will quickly become an anchor along the burgeoning corridor and provide a unique opportunity for area artists looking to save a little money on rent by putting studio space under the same roof as their bed.
From here on out, Connelly hopes more and more artists and investors will continue to be attracted to the area.
“Numerous artists have already followed our lead by moving into our rental properties on Bailey Street, as well as infilling the surrounding blocks,” he says. “Moving forward, we are hoping the artists decide to invest in our area by purchasing property and further solidifying a creative arts vernacular of the community.”
: Jacob Roller, Co-Managing Partner at MM Partners; Michael Connelly, Ceramic Artist/College Professor
: Greg Meckstroth