A collaborative of Mt. Airy neighborhood organizations has been awarded a $400,000 grant that will help fund the continued implementation of a revitalization plan.
A collaborative of Mt. Airy neighborhood organizations has been awarded a $400,000 grant that will help fund the continued implementation of a revitalization plan aiming to improve the quality of life in the community.
“The goal is to implement a plan that keeps Mt. Airy vibrant, diverse, and makes life better for all residents,” said Phil Dawson, executive director of the Mt. Airy CDC. “It affects different people in different ways, but it’s meant to be comprehensive and to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Wells Fargo Regional Foundation awarded the grant to the organizations and will distribute the funding among.the Mt. Airy CDC, West Mt. Airy Neighbors, East Mt. Airy Neighbors, and the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District.
This five-year revitalization plan, called Mt. Airy 2025, will run through 2027. It comes on the heels of two similar initiatives in 2017 and 2022, which were fueled by a $1 million grant.
This time around, the CDC and other organizations are planning to consider more neighborhood details in their planning.
“We used this as an opportunity to look at the activities that all of us were doing and to make sure that what we’re doing makes sense,” Dawson said. “We did make changes along the way – there are some initiatives that organizations are doing now that weren’t even contemplated when the plan was created six years ago, so this was a good process to refresh everything.”
For the next five years, the primary areas of concentration for community improvement include community safety and placemaking, early childhood education, homes and housing, senior living, neighborhood retail and commerce, and youth engagement.
A significant amount of funding will be spent on community safety initiatives including updating street and sidewalk infrastructure to support traffic safety and protect pedestrians.
“Any person walking on the street will benefit from a neighborhood where pedestrian safety is prioritized and traffic fatalities are reduced, or where there’s more tree cover,” Dawson said. “There’s a goal to plant 2,000 trees in Mt. Airy over the next five years that all the organizations are seeking to support, so that’s something that will affect the physical environment.”
A new Mt. Airy Schools Coalition, formed by the East Mt. Airy Neighbors, West Mt. Airy Neighbors, and the CDC, will serve as a platform to advocate for additional resources and empower parents to lobby for improvements.
The CDC’s recent announcement of the ‘Community Reading Nest’ at Cliveden of the National Trust lays the groundwork for a neighborhood haven that expands literacy opportunities for children in Mt. Airy, which is part of a larger plan.
“Any student will benefit from literacy support that will be offered and a greater engagement of parents in the Mt. Airy Schools Coalition,” Dawson said.
In addition to early learning services, planned programs will offer more extracurricular activities for children and young adults. They will also develop after-school, volunteer and employment opportunities for 14 to 24-year-olds.
The plan will also address housing concerns such as home foreclosures, absentee landlords, and deferred maintenance.
“On the homes and housing side, beginning some affordable housing projects, including one on the 6600 block of [Germantown] Avenue where there’s now a vacant lot, is something that is funded through this grant [that will] provide new staffing to do this work,” Dawson said.
According to a Mt. Airy CDC study, older adults that are near the retirement ages of 55 to 64 years old have experienced the biggest population increase. The percentage of retired people in Mt. Airy is likely to rise drastically in the next five to 10 years, so expanding and publicizing residential options for senior living will be an essential part of the plan.
The funding will also support retail job development, and a task force focused on diversifying the range of goods and services along the commercial corridor and upgrading the 6300–6700 blocks of Germantown and Chew Avenues.