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Local Woman Transforming Historic Germantown Building Into Café, Safe Creative Space Hopes To Open In Fall

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Eyewitness News continues to celebrate Women's History Month. And on Tuesday morning, we have a follow-up on a story we first brought you nearly a year ago.

A woman is on an incredible mission to transform a historic building in Germantown into a creative space for the entire neighborhood. Like so many projects during the pandemic, there have been setbacks and challenges.

Peek inside this more than a century-old Victorian building along Germantown Avenue these days and you'll spot a pile of lumber and power tools.

Local Woman Transforming Historic Germantown Building Into Creative Space Hopes To Open In Fall

"What haven't we been doing?" Keisha Whatley said.

Whatley is the creative mind and founder behind what will become the Germantown Arthaus – a café and safe, creative space meant to inspire.

"And to inspire means to breathe life into," Whatley said. "And that's what we aspire to do here."

But the process of getting there has proven to be a challenge. Eyewitness News first stopped by the Arthaus last spring. The interior was gutted down to the studs and ready to be renovated.

A café on the first floor, artist studios on the second, and a studio apartment up top are all on track for a fall opening.

But there's that saying about best-laid plans, especially during a pandemic.

"The same song and dance that you've probably heard over the last 12 months is the supply shortage," Whatley said. "Whether it's COVID or increasing cost, or just can't get the product here fast enough has that's definitely slowed our timeline."

Not to mention busted the budget.

"There's some spaces that the prices have doubled and tripled," Whatley said. "The materials cost has increased, the labor cost has increased."

Finding the resources to cover the ballooning cost oftentimes is seemingly a tall task for the small business.

"Make this top-notch for them, serve them in such a wonderful way, and also be able to cover the budget. That's what keeps me up," Whatley said.

But what keeps Whatley going is her personal inspiration.

"I think of my grandmother Maxine Whatley," she said. "I think about this project being a culmination of her dreams, and that I'm living her mission."

"Always thinking about how to better serve the community and create things that would help especially communities of color and underserved communities," Whatley said.

Slowly but surely, the plans at the Arthaus are taking shape. The electrical work is now underway. And soon walls will cover wire and the creatives can get to work.

"One of the projects the kids can work on is muraling these walls," Whatley said.

They've already started creating the mural for one of the exterior walls. 

Self-portraits of children in the community painted throughout the year will eventually spell the word, "Hope." 

Reminding Germantown that anything is possible. 

"And that they too can build a staircase one step at a time," Whatley said.

No matter how many obstacles get in the way.

The Germantown Arthaus is still on a mission to raise $150,000 to fund all the necessary repairs and renovations. Click here to help.

You can learn more about the amazing women in our area by clicking here. And if you know an exceptional woman we should know about, please share their story with us on our CBS Philly Facebook page.

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