Northeast Times

So long, so soon

3rd Ward Phil­adelphia shuts its doors after only six months; of­fers no re­funds for classes or mem­ber­ship fees.

In this March photo, 3rd Ward em­ploy­ee Jestis Deuer­lein stands in­side the just-com­pleted 3rd Ward space. SAM NE­W­HOUSE / STAR PHOTO

Phil­adelphia’s North­ern Liber­ties-ad­ja­cent loc­a­tion of the Brook­lyn-based cre­at­ive haven 3rd Ward shut down of­fi­cially and without much warn­ing on Fri­day, Oct. 11.

3rd Ward Philly opened its doors only six months ago at 1227 N. 4th St. 3rd Ward Philly’s build­ing was a massive space that offered in­struc­tion in dozens of cre­at­ive me­di­ums. Stu­dents could pay to take one-off classes, like a weekly fig­ure sketch­ing class for $10, pay for a series of one par­tic­u­lar class, or could join 3rd Ward as a full mem­ber. 

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter cir­cu­lat­ing on­line writ­ten by 3rd Ward founder Jason Good­man to 3rd Ward in­struct­ors, “With the costs of run­ning our two loc­a­tions in Brook­lyn and Phil­adelphia, we are sadly no longer able to re­main in busi­ness.” 

Star’s emails to sev­er­al 3rd Ward Phil­adelphia staff mem­bers were not re­turned. Some emails bounced back be­cause the email ad­dresses are no longer act­ive. Phone calls to the build­ing are answered by a gen­er­ic voice­mail mes­sage. Its web­site lists only help@3rd­ward.com as a point of con­tact. 

Ac­cord­ing to Free Wil­li­ams­burg, in an­oth­er email Good­man sent last week, 3rd Ward “…will not be able to re­fund any pay­ments made for mem­ber­ship ser­vices that have not been fully util­ized.” 

The Brook­lyn loc­a­tion of 3rd Ward opened in 2006. Ac­cord­ing to the web­site Tech­nic­ally Philly, 3rd Ward Phil­adelphia had cut 50 per­cent of its staff in Ju­ly. 

Both loc­a­tions re­mained open with lim­ited hours through Tues­day, only for staff and in­struct­ors to col­lect their be­long­ings.

Free Wil­li­ams­burg also poin­ted out that cofounders Good­man and Jeremy Lovitt have “a his­tory of shady in­com­pet­ence,”— their 3rd Ward out­post in New York was forced to shut down in 2010 for op­er­at­ing il­leg­ally. 

On 3rd Ward Philly’s Face­book page, dis­gruntled vis­it­ors to the cre­at­ive space voiced their dis­dain, with some users say­ing Good­man and Lovitt are “…crim­in­als who have stolen money from teach­ers and as­pir­ing artists,” with one user writ­ing: ldquo;So 3rd Ward, when ex­actly do you plan on pay­ing your in­struct­ors and re­fund­ing stu­dents for can­celled classes?”

The web­site Tech­nic­ally Brook­lyn spoke with a former 3rd Ward Brook­lyn teach­er there, who said that em­ploy­ees there would go month without be­ing paid.

Good­man has not spoken to many press out­lets, only briefly com­ment­ing to The New York Times and The Vil­lage Voice.  

Ac­cord­ing to the Voice: “Good­man doesn’t have a lot of an­swers about how 3rd Ward col­lapsed so quickly and com­pletely. In Septem­ber 3rd Ward launched a cam­paign to raise $1.5 mil­lion in in­vest­ment on the web­site Fun­drise. That cam­paign was called off last Wed­nes­day.” 

On Fun­drise’s 3rd Ward cam­paign, re­gard­ing Phil­adelphia, it read: “The cur­rent op­er­at­ing losses and cash de­fi­cit are primar­ily due to three factors…2. The new loc­a­tion in Phil­adelphia is re­quir­ing more cap­it­al than ex­pec­ted to achieve prof­it­ab­il­ity or reach cash flow break-even.”

The Fun­drise cam­paign did raise $375,000 be­fore it was sus­pen­ded.

Good­man also told the Voice that 3rd Ward could still be saved by an “out­pour­ing of in­terest” from po­ten­tial in­vestors — plus, former mem­bers have also star­ted a cam­paign as well, save3rd­ward.com, with which Good­man said he’s not af­fil­i­ated. 

It’s not clear what will be­come of 3rd Ward’s Phil­adelphia space. 

The Phil­adelphia 3rd Ward web­site, philly.3rd­ward.com, in­cludes the same let­ter as the Brook­lyn 3rd Ward web­site, which ref­er­ences New York, not Phil­adelphia, in its com­ments. 

On 3rd Ward’s web­site, it reads: “We are tre­mend­ously saddened and apo­lo­get­ic to see the very people we opened this space to serve, and who made it so vi­brant, scattered on such short no­tice…When we opened in 2006, our vis­ion was to cre­ate a shared space for our com­munity of artists and en­tre­pren­eurs to have a place to work, learn, net­work and thrive. We’re proud to have been able to do that for as long as we did.”  ••

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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