Mt. Airy residents begin talks on 10-year plan

 (Courtesy of Kyasha Tyson)

(Courtesy of Kyasha Tyson)

Where do you see your neighborhood in 10 years?

That’s what Mt. Airy residents discussed on Wednesday evening during the Mt. Airy 2025 Visioning Workshop, the first step in a project to transform the neighborhood over the next 10 years.

Isaac Kwon, project manager of Mt. Airy 2025, led the brainstorming session for folks to list issues in their community.

The planning process stems from a $100,000 grant that allows for the neighborhood to create a comprehensive plan for the next 10 years. The planning money stems from a Neighborhood Planning Grant awarded by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation in April.

“It’s great that so many of you are engaged because we’re going to be nauseatingly specific in what we want to accomplish,” Kwon said.

About 60 people crammed into the stuffy basement of the Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church to vent about housing, economic development, and quality of life.

“Fill the vacant houses with homeowners and the drug dealers will disappear,” said resident Bill Simon. “They’re not going to sit on my steps.”

Litter, wild animals, crime, vacant lots and poor schools were mentioned as issues plaguing the community. Attendees also complained about the lack of parking, diverse medical practices, sit-down restaurants and indoor family recreation such as bowling alleys.

“Investors rule in Mt. Airy. It’s all about gentrification,” said Michael Jones, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood.

Mt. Airy USA, the community development corporation which hosted the meeting, and partners East Mt. Airy Neighbors, West Mt. Airy Neighbors, Chew and Belfield Neighbors, the 6300 Block Alliance and the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District submitted a collaborative proposal for the grant last fall.

Urban Partners, a Philadelphia-based economic development consulting firm, will lead the planning initiative, facilitating a community engagement process and preparing the final report.

A committee comprised of representatives from local civic groups and social service agencies has also been formed to guide the consultants through the planning stages.

The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation requires a “property conditions database” map showing the condition of properties throughout the planning area to help monitor the impact of investments over time.

“So if community members see people walking around in green vests, that’s what they’re working on,” said Abby Thaker, director of development and education at Mt. Airy USA.

From late July through August, Thaker added, there will be a community survey administered door-to-door throughout the planning area.

Jimmie Reed, owner of Little Jimmie’s Bakery Café on Germantown Avenue, said the future of Mt. Airy looks promising.

“I’m excited for this project because the south end of Mt. Airy needs some attention,” Reed said. “I’ve got young teens begging for jobs, you know? If we get people to work locally, then they’ll spend locally.”

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