Germantown United CDC closed out 2014 with a very successful fundraising campaign, but 2015 isn’t offering any time to relax. By the beginning of February, the young CDC already has several new initiatives underway and is promising big impact across the neighborhood’s creative, historic, development and business sectors.
“We had done annual end-of-year campaigns before, but not with quite the gusto that we did this time,” GUCDC executive director Andy Trackman said of the organization’s “We Are Germantown” effort to raise $30,000 beginning last October.
In just six weeks, GUCDC had reached its goal through the support of a variety of stakeholders.
“What really kicked off the campaign was we had 100 percent participation from our board,” Trackman said. “That’s really important, because if we don’t believe in ourselves, then we can’t really ask other people to believe in us either.”
The stakes were high, because in 2014, GUCDC applied for a city grant which aids economically-challenged sections of the city. GUCDC won the support, but the program doesn’t disburse funds for participating CDCs to use up front. Instead, it’s a reimbursable grant, meaning the recipient incurs the expense of its new initiatives, and then submits that to the City for reimbursement of the funds.
“We realized we needed to have the money to cover ourselves until we got reimbursed by the City,” Trackman explains of why the $30,000 push was vital for 2015.
Supporters included Howard Treatman and Ken Weinstein, who each offered matching grants of $2,500 toward the total, as well as many online and email campaign donors from the neighborhood.
Trackman said there was also in-kind support from Germantown’s Karen Singer Tileworks, which offered a special tile featuring an image of the Germantown Town Hall to high-level donors.
Now that funds are in place to fill the pre-reimbursement gap, the support from the grant will help GUCDC to continue and launch a variety of programs.
That includes organizing and scheduling more business information sessions in 2015, which provide resources to local business owners for bringing a venture to Germantown or building an existing one.
GUCDC is also working on an online business directory for the neighborhood, which involves a lot of outreach.
Pairing history and business
Trackman also notes that this year will bring continued close collaboration between Historic Germantown and GUCDC, “cross-promoting businesses with historic sites, so that when people come to visit a historic site in Germantown, they know which restaurant to go to and which place to shop.”
There will be a special emphasis on promoting Historic Germantown’s Second Saturday program, which Trackman said still isn’t as well-known as organizers would like.
“We want Second Saturday to be in Germantown what First Friday is in Old City,” he said.
Another development for this year is a grant from PNC Charitable Trusts for a new “storefront activation program.”
“We’re really excited about that one,” Trackman said, noting that while the grant is administered through PNC, the dollars are actually from the Rowell Family Foundation, of the former Rowell’s Department Store at Germantown and Chelten Avenues.
GUCDC will be working closely with the Germantown Artists Roundtable on that project, which plans to match local property owners who have vacant retail storefronts on the commercial corridors with local artists who will create custom window displays for the spaces.
The project has a number of goals, Trackman continued. One is the opportunity to employ local artists.
Another aim is to “activate the street space so it’s not just being a blank storefront: it’s interesting to look at when you’re around shopping.”
Finally, the ultimate goal in enlivening these spaces is to help the property owners market the storefronts to paying tenants, and get them to open for good.
And there’s still at least one other major event underway. Planning has begun for the second annual For the Love of Germantown event, according to Trackman.
While the date, location, and featured speaker are TBA, locals can look for this in early May.