It was once a Studebaker car dealership. It was also a roller skating rink and a metalworking shop called Iron Men, Inc. But when Linford Martin and Andy Pfeifer found the nearly century-old West Philadelphia property two years ago, it was just a mess.
Tucked away on a small, residential side street around the corner from 49th Street and Baltimore Avenue, the property had sat vacant for 10 years, its facade obscured by overgrown trees and its lot covered in trash.
But it was perfect for Martin and Pfeifer, contractors who had been searching for a large industrial space to turn into a shared artists workspace.
In January 2013, The Cedar Works formally opened its doors at 4919 Pentridge Street. It’s something of an anomaly in West Philadelphia, where industrial buildings repurposed as artist workspaces aren’t as common like they are in the riverwards of Kensington or Port Richmond (see: The Loom, Globe Dye Works).
The 15,000 square foot space includes a 3,000 square foot woodshop and workshop, a space for neighborhood events, a patio and 20 studios, which are all occupied. About 50 people work out of The Cedar Works, including a guitar maker, a therapist, a jewelry maker and the members of a fledgling social entrepreneurship think tank. There’s even a coworking space, occupied by a freelance web developer, a GIS analyst and a staffer from Wayne-based sales software company PipelineDeals, inside one of the studios.
It wasn’t hard to find tenants for the space, Martin said, since the area is filled with artists and other creative professionals. He and Pfeifer had heard that there was a need for this kind of space in the neighborhood — 90 percent of The Cedar Works’ members live within walking distance, said Martin, who has lived in West Philadelphia for 15 years. They had already filled half the studio spaces when they launched, he said.
The Cedar Works was definitely a fixer-upper, said Martin, who was wearing an “Extreme Home Makeover” T-shirt when we visited. The pair spent a year renovating the space: tearing down walls, planting trees and grass, replacing the roof.
Today, the property is no frills: the nearly two dozen private studios each have simple wooden doors and are connected by a hallway with mostly sparse, white walls. Everything is doused in natural light, thanks to the many skylights scattered across the high ceilings.
That might be why photographers flock to the space, Martin said: the Cedar Works has four.
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