Our coop began in 1989, when the Artists Housing Project was founded by a group of artists who joined forces to create an affordable live/work space for themselves.
Using funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the William Penn Foundation, and other organizations, this group hired the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corporation (PHPC) to oversee the development of an artists’ live/work building. This project was coordinated by urban planner, David LaFontaine, who became one of GSAC’s resident members.
After a long search, PHPC found a vacant, 22,000 square foot, former factory building on a mostly blacktopped 1.5-acre lot in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. This building had been built in 1919 by the Wirt Company, for the manufacture of small electrical appliances. Before establishing this company, Charles Summer Wirt had been an associate of Thomas Edison, and had worked at his laboratories in Menlo Park, NJ.
Over the years, the building changed hands several times, by a television and radio company (we found thousands of transistors in the floor cracks), and a flooring company. By 1991, the building was owned by Dick Hayne, the founder of Urban Outfitters, who had used it as a warehouse.
In order to purchase this building, the Artists Housing Project incorporated as Greene Street Artists Corporation (GSAC) in 1991. After many meetings and a lot of planning, the building was renovated into 16 live/work units, and received a certificate of occupancy in June 1992. In addition, Greene Street Artist Corporation removed much of the asphalt, one step toward humanizing the city and greening the earth.
Since that time, about 50 artists have lived at GSAC, along with some of their families. Currently, 19 artists and their spouses live here, including 3 founding members. All GSAC artist members live in the building, do our creative work here, and contribute to GSAC’s ongoing success.
Though many members have joined and left over the years, GSAC continues to be a self-managed cooperative. All of our members serve on committees that oversee the building’s finances, structure and grounds, policies and member issues, and relations within our building and the larger community.
GSAC is an example of a group of people coming together to create a whole that is truly more than the sum of its parts. It’s an ever-changing community that continues to evolve, as our members and our neighborhood evolve. We are delighted to have thrived for over thirty years, and look forward to many more years of co-creating community to come.