TUCKED AWAY under a canopy of trees in the heart of Germantown is Maplewood Mall, a quaint, narrow street long past its glory days but - in the eyes of some community leaders - full of potential.
This weekend, in what organizers hope will open the rest of the community's eyes about opportunities along the stretch, Maplewood Mall will come alive with a "Reimagine Maplewood Mall" block party on Saturday. The brainchild of a handful of community leaders, the party will feature live music, food from local restaurants, the work of area artists and activities for kids.
Germantown United Community Development Corporation President Andy Trackman said the idea behind the block party, which will be the first event of its kind on Maplewood Mall, is to showcase the site - long dotted with vacancies - and get people thinking about its potential.
"Residents and merchants there are very engaged. It's really neat to see them come together," Trackman said. "It's reimagining this street everybody in Germantown loves and wants to see get better."
Trackman estimated that about a third of roughly 30 properties on Maplewood Mall, a commercial and residential stretch off Armat Street just west of Germantown Avenue, were vacant as of earlier this year.
Staff from the City Planning Commission will be on hand at the party to talk with residents about their visions for the mall.
"Maplewood Mall is this place that people either have memories from long ago of things they used to do there, or people more recently here look at and are completely puzzled by, because they don't understand why there's not more there," said Jim Bear, who runs G-Town Radio out of a property on the mall and was instrumental in planning the block party. "It's become this place that's stuck in a rut."
The party isn't the only thing bringing buzz to the idea of revitalizing Maplewood Mall. Earlier this month, Councilwoman Cindy Bass hosted a business-corridors tour - the first stop of which was the mall - in Germantown in an effort to bring a crowdfunding model for development to the neighborhood.
The city Planning Commission is also working on plans to redevelop the mall, and held an official announcement of the planned redesign there last weekend, joined by Bass.
Trackman said he hopes the Planning Commission will be able to incorporate additional ideas from community members that may arise during the block party.
Bear, who moved G-Town Radio into its space on Maplewood Mall five years ago, said he hopes the party will draw a few hundred people. The response from the community to the event so far, he said, has been encouraging.
"A lot of people believe in Maplewood Mall because they see potential in it, or they believe in [it] because they remember what was there," he said. "It's something that's been on so many people's minds."
Reimagine Maplewood Mall will be held Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The rain date is June 29.