“It’s about letting people reinvent themselves,” says developer David Belt, of 3RD Ward, the craft instruction and co-working space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In partnership with Paul Maiello, Belt’s firm Macro/Sea is restoring three buildings at 4th and Thompson to house 3RD Ward Philly. Demolition and stabilization of the buildings, including the 19th century St. Lukes Church, began this spring. “The whole thing [but perhaps the cafe/restaurant] gets unwrapped at once,” in spring or summer, 2012.
The 27,000 square foot space will house studios, workshops (for jewelry, wood, metal, and textiles), a gallery, an instructional kitchen, a retail outlet, and the restaurant.
Belt is well known for creating “The Palms,” a pop-up swim club in Long Island City, Queens. The swimming pools were redeployed dumpsters. “We do projects to engage junk spaces,” he says. In 2009, Belt participated in Infill, the Community Design Collaborative-sponsored charrette on reusing vacant industrial land.
Inspired by the many glass-filled lots, Belt invented “Glassphemy,” a small glass house for throwing glass–think translucent carnival game for the angry and the ironic–which was installed on the lot at Crane Arts during Design Philadelphia.
“It was a party,” explains Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative, “but it was more than a party, it was a network of people to take advantage of this moment in Philadelphia,” and soon enough Belt was off exploring the city.
Belt grew up partially in Center City and lived there in the late-1980s. “This was like a homecoming for him,” says Miller. But Belt says it was the Collaborative that “made me look seriously at Philadelphia, made me realize how cool it was.”
Miller thinks 3RD Ward will be a perfect complement to Crane Arts, extending the energy that’s already loose in the neighborhood. “It’s a great project. We hope we are trending towards critical mass and new zoning for the area,” says Crane Arts co-founder Nick Kripal. Indeed, David Gleason of Crane helped Belt secure financing from The Reinvestment Fund, which specializes in neighborhood development. “We’re not making much money,” says Belt. “We bought the buildings then asked ourselves what could we do to have something to go in them that would allow us to fix them up.” Belt says 3RD Ward was an obvious choice. Their services complement those provided at Crane and Globe Dye Works in Frankford. And Philly, he notes, isn’t all that different from Brooklyn.
And this Philly, says Miller, “is definitely open for business.”