The city of Philadelphia has grown immensely over the past few years — not so much in size or land, but in sheer talent. There are plenty of start-ups and creative ventures that call the City of Brotherly Love home, but what was missing was the fuel for these promising businesses. That’s where Will Toms and Dave Silver come in. Toms and Silver recently announced the expansion of REC Philly — a premier resource center and space for creative entrepreneurs in Philly — into a new facility. The expansion will call the new Fashion District (opening this fall) home, and the facility will offer members 24/7 access to their creative amenities, a space to build a linked community and overall much-needed inspiration. Toms and Silver chatted with Metro about what to expect at the new REC Philly location opening up sometime this fall, and why they think this “gym for creatives” is needed in the city.
Get a sneak peek at REC Philly’s new 10,000 square-foot creative facility
Why do you think it’s important for this area to have a facility like this?
Will Toms (WT): I think it’s really important for a number of reasons. The Philadelphia that I know and love has always had a ton of creative talent. But with that being said, there’s a really big gap for this talent finding the success that we all know is possible — the success that allows people to have sustainable careers doing what they love for a living. That came down to not having access to affordable resources, whether that’s with creating studios or gaining access to the latest technology at an affordable rate, and it also came down to the education. If you’re post-secondary or you’re out of college, or maybe you didn’t attend college, you’re still wondering where the folks are that are talking about the actual business models that are now made possible with the internet. Who is talking about it and what experts can I go to? That was very difficult to find, and Dave and I found that firsthand. We were navigating the industry a few years ago and really working closely with creatives we loved, but it was hard. Lastly, we knew there were creative people who were business-minded who wanted to do this full-time, but where are they? That’s what we really wanted to see: How to create a space that makes sure the resources, strategy, information and the community are all accessible so we can grow businesses here in Philadelphia.
So what exactly is set to be in the new facility?
WT: We’re going to have four recording studios, visual studios such as a broadcast studio for photo or video, a movement studio for dance, meditation rooms to enable positive mental health, plus we have a dedicated podcast studio in partnership with WXPN, which is incredible. We also just announced our partnership with Live Nation to have a 200-person capacity venue space. That’s really important for our educational needs with our workshops that we do and to also create some really awesome entertainment and concert experiences. Working with a brand like Live Nation really opens up doors for us and allows more opportunity for our members. Another addition I’m excited and proud about since we are going to be in the new Fashion District, we added a retail space which will allow our members to have access to sell their art right in the retail store in this mall. That’s special to us with this idea of economically empowering our creatives.
Why did you guys choose to partner with the Fashion District?
Dave Silver (DS): The demand was there for more space for our facility. We were just starting the process of looking with agents at spaces around the city, and I ended up linking up with a mentor of mine, Chuck, from a nonprofit I’m involved with Leadership Philadelphia. Chuck is actually a developer working on the new Fashion District and he brought Will and me along to check out his new project, kind of just to be nice, back in April 2018. We were totally mind-blown at what they were doing with the redevelopment of this space. At first, we thought never in a million years could we move to a place like this — it seemed unrealistic. What we came to find is, not many things are unrealistic for our team. Chuck told us about an art space in the Fashion District that they were struggling to fill, and Will and I looked at each other and kind of raised our hands, sort of as a joke and volunteered our space. But honestly, that was the seed that started it and when we got home that day Chuck sent us the blueprints. When you think about the accessibility at being on 9th and Market and what it means to be a part of this revamped gallery project and what it means to the city, it really does make a lot of sense that we would look to plant the flag of local art and culture there. Will always says we are literally and figuratively bringing art to the center of the city, and our creators and artists will feel empowered and like they belong there.
Why did you choose to utilize local resources?
DS: That’s one of my favorite parts about this project and it’s been one of my favorite parts of our company: the ability to utilize the community for what we are building. From our architects to our design consultants, studio build advisors, lighting in our space, security doors and cameras, technology in our proprietary action with the building — every single one of those vendors is from Philadelphia. When we think about our organization and empowering the local economy, it’s all about the artists for us, so the fact that we can bring it all in locally is a significant piece to this whole story.
WT: It really is an extension of our company. When our members sign up, we really preach collaboration. Independent doesn’t mean alone. Collaborating is what makes opportunities happen so we wanted to extend that into the DNA of the building.
Memberships at REC Philly’s current location are still available. Anyone interested can learn more and sign up for a walkthrough of the new space at recphilly.com/join