by Pete Mazzaccaro
Next week, at Mt. Airy USA’s Tuesday Supper Sessions, the community development corporation will announce the procurement of a $1 million grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation.
The Sep.12 event begins at 6 p.m. and will include Mayor Jim Kenney and 8th District Councilperson Cindy Bass. Supper Sessions take place every Tuesday in September on Germantown Avenue and feature food options from neighborhood restaurants.
The grant is the first piece of funding for Mt. Airy USA’s 10-year master plan – Mt Airy 2025 – and will be shared by East and West Mt. Airy Neighbors as the neighborhood organizations look to tackle six areas of need identified in the master plan: neighborhood retail and commerce, early childhood education, senior living, community safety and placemaking, homes and housing, and youth engagement.
“We arrived at these areas over the course of about a year,” said Mt. Airy USA managing director Sarajane Blair. “We had three public meetings, 12 focus groups, and outreach to other groups to get as many people as possible at the table to figure out what the focus would be for the next 10 years.”
Brad Copeland, Mt. Airy USA’s executive director said the grant is the first step in a plan that will require between $18 to $20 million in funding over the course of 10 years. Some of that may come in grants, some could come from fundraising and some might be financed, he said.
Copeland reiterated that the grant money would be shared by his organization, West Mt. Airy Neighbors and East Mt. Airy neighbors in ways that spoke to the strengths of each organization.
“It’s not envisioned for Mt Airy USA to do by itself. It’s a collaborative effort,” he said.
Mt. Airy USA brings a host of various expertise to the table.
“We bring overall guidance to the plan, getting it complete, getting people to the table,” Copeland said.
But organizing isn’t the only thing his organization does. It is a HUD certified housing counseling service, has a business development service that works with local entrepreneurs and also has a real estate and infrastructure development service.
The study area for Mt. Airy 2025 is largely focused on the southern end of the neighborhood, where social and economic needs are greater. Although the neighborhood has been improving, Copeland says there is plenty of work left to do.
“The plan addresses things you don’t necessarily see on the surface,” he said. “This organization started in 1980 when conditions were desperate. You’ve seen a lot of changes there over the years. There have been other planning processes, but it’s always good for a community to be planful and anticipate that change – How can we continue to provide help and support and growth in the community?”
Next, Mt. Airy USA will continue to seek not only funding but competent partners in the six areas addressed in the plan. Blair said that the organization has good partners working on senior living but could use experts in youth engagement as just one example
“If anyone wants to help or be involved in this plan, let us know,” she said.
For more information on Supper Sessions, see mtairyusa.org/supper-sessions. For more on Mt. Airy 2025, go to phila.gov/CityPlanning/plans/communityplans/Pages/IndependentCommunityBasedPlans.aspx and choose Mt. Airy 2025 from the list of community plans.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org