Former Germantown industrial site to house community preservation initiative

A vacant factory in southwest Germantown is the blank canvas for a new historic preservation experiment.

The result probably won’t be a particular renovation or reuse plan for the local subject of the experiment. The project is called Gray Area, and the coordinators hope it will stimulate the gray matter of neighbors and get them engaged in the preservation process.

At the initial neighborhood meeting Monday night in the Germantown Theatre Center — the first of two such conversations planned there — project director Elise Vider said the idea of Gray Area is “intended to be collaborative and to get different audiences thinking and talking about historic preservation for the 21st century.”

The Gray Area project began in 2011, with funding from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and involved panel discussions and other dialogue among preservationists and related professionals.

Over the next nine months, Gray Area will use three Philadelphia buildings as laboratories to push the boundaries of preservation, examining their history and roles in the neighborhoods that surround them.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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