PhilaMOCA reopens after two years of darkness
During an inspection two years ago, Bresler suddenly discovered that PhilaMOCA had strayed from what it was initially zoned for. His predecessor, Gavin Hecker, started PhilaMOCA 20 years ago as an exhibition space. Under Bresler, it became primarily a venue for entertainment and cinema, involving more people and therefore a different zoning designation.
Bresler struggled to get a waiver from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, then found that a new zoning designation meant a new set of fire safety codes from the Licensing and Inspection Department: new electrical system, new doors. exit, emergency lighting. It also had to soundproof the front windows to comply with an assembly license.
When Bresler approached the neighborhood association to prepare for his zoning waiver hearing, he found out that the association he used to deal with for 10 years was in fact in the wrong neighborhood. He hired a lawyer and an architect while maintaining the rent and utilities of a building that generated no income. Bresler, who had her first baby a few months before, was pouring her personal savings into PhilaMOCA and had to find another job to pay the bills. He spent his free time filling out paperwork, preparing for hearings and overseeing $ 25,000 worth of improvements to the building.
“I come from the DIY world of punk rock shows and independent cinema where I never relied on anyone for funding. I never followed the rules, ”he said. “This experience was the complete opposite of that. I found him miserable.
There was a silver lining in Bresler’s Odyssian ordeal: people stepped up to help. A crowdfunding fundraiser generated around $ 50,000, enough to cover the rent for most of those two years.
“The reaction from the public has been incredible. It was the first time that I had proof that PhilaMOCA and its programming were appreciated by people, ”he said. “It always warms my heart to think about it.”