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MAAG partners with Mt. Airy USA for new Germantown Avenue development

The completed mural and garden

When a major community hub loses its lease, what happens next?

About a year ago, we spoke with Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) leaders about moving forward after unexpectedly losing their space. It was quite a blow given the nonprofit’s investment of about $250,000 to rehab and customize the formerly vacant and unfinished property near the corner of Germantown and West Mt. Airy Avenues.

Now things are looking up thanks to a partnership with Mt. Airy USA, a local community development organization.

"I think we’ve always recognized how important the artist community is for the neighborhood," says Mt. Airy USA Executive Director Brad Copeland. He’s been working with MAAG co-founders Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshan to give their organization a home in an upcoming mixed-use redevelopment on the 6600 block of Germantown Avenue.

The targeted site is actually two different parcels: Mt. Airy USA had already acquired the property at 6651-53 and begun a rehab; the more recently purchased lot is next door at 6657-59.

The building at 6657-59 was "the most blighted building on that stretch of Germantown Avenue," explains Copeland, calling it "a high-priority property for us…we started thinking about the site as a whole -- what we could do with the combined parcels."

That was when Mt. Airy USA reached out to Slodki and Olshan about whether the new space’s potential commercial footprint of 2,500 square feet could be a good fit for MAAG. The conversation continued from there. Copeland estimates that the new building will be ready for occupancy sometime in 2018 (Mt. Airy USA will partner with a to-be-announced developer).

The organization hopes to have a plan in place for the design and construction of the property -- anchored by MAAG with residential space and perhaps some artist studios -- by this fall. A public meeting in October or November will be held so community members can offer input to the developer.

"There’s a lot of activity in the neighborhood," says Copeland. "It did make sense for us to try to find out how to be good partners."

MAAG has to vacate its current location on August 31. Until it moves into the new space, the organization will be in pop-up mode. Some events will land at 6622 Germantown Avenue; classes and artist group meetings will take place at the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub at 6700 Germantown Avenue. Patrons and members can visit MAAG at the Lutheran Theological Seminary for Philadelphia Open Studio Tour and the organization's annual Holiday Art Market later this year.

"It’s a pretty exciting project," adds Copeland. "I think the opportunities that come out of it for further kinds of collaboration are even more exciting."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Brad Copeland, Mt. Airy USA
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