DC gets a new artist community!
As an avid supporter and researcher of DC artist communities, I have spent the last half a year getting to know the multi-faceted artist neighborhoods that go unnoticed and unpublicized throughout the District. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the nation's leading real estate developer for the arts, Artspace, was coming to town. Not only that, but they are partnering with one of the coolest arts organizations: Dance Place.
Artspace Projects is a Minneapolis-based national nonprofit dedicated to creating, fostering and preserving affordable space for artists and arts organizations. They do this through development projects, asset management activities, consulting services, and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines. It is responsible for constructing over 30 artist communities throughout the United States, including our very own Mount Rainier Artist Lofts in the Gateway Arts District of Maryland.
After their work and resounding success with the Mount Rainier artist district, Artspace set their sights on the District and identified Ward 5's Brookland neighborhood as the perfect spot. Partnering with Brookland's longstanding neighborhood theater and D.C.'s amazing prolific dance presenter, Dance Place, Artspace intends to create a $13 million arts campus in the Brookland neighborhood, with 41 affordable live/work units for artists and their families along with gallery and studio space.
"This project has been declared a 'demonstration project'" states Heidi Kurtze, director of property development for Artspace. "We're thrilled to be in Washington, DC, and we hope that this project is the first of many. I always say, now that I've cracked the code of DC government, it shouldn't go to waste on just one project. There's such a rich arts community in the District that we really hope that this project is the beginning of many."
Included in the project are major face-lift plans for Dance Place to correspond with the new lofts. They will be granted two units in the new building for administrative and classroom use, in addition to a new, state-of-the-art performance/rehearsal space and education center. The free space means Dance Place will not have to rent their own space, providing for more community partnerships and low-cost opportunities for students and dancers.
Because of this intense arts focus, the District Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has decided to provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding and $1 million in low-income housing tax credits to the Artspace residential project in recognition of the role of the arts in revitalizing the neighborhood.
Of course, DC is not foreign to artist communities and live/work real estate. The Cultural Development Corporation has been dedicated to transforming the artist residential landscape for the past fifteen years. Its Mathers Studios contain 12 artist condominiums (out of 50 lofts total). They are also about to open up 30 artist live/work spaces at the Loree Grand at Union Place in 2010. Then there are DC's more gritty live/work lofts such as the 52 O Street Artist Lofts, which has served as a dedicated artist collective in the North Capitol neighborhood.
Cool features of this new Brookland Artspace are open interiors, wider hallways and hospital-sized elevators, allowing for the transport of large art materials or finished pieces of art. The southwest corner of the ground floor will naturally be available as a performance space that opens to the plaza, connecting to the new Dance Place site. Groundbreaking is scheduled for this Spring in March, with a projected grand opening in June 2011.
This construction coincides with other large-scale arts developments in the Brookland area, such as Jim Abdo's project which will add some 825 new homes, "eclectic college town retail," and below-market-rate spaces for artists.
With construction slated to begin in 2011, Abdo intends to focus on Art Walk buildings with 27 ground-floor studio spaces for artists to work and sell their pieces.
“It’s kind of like a combo between the Torpedo Factory and Eastern Market,” says Toby Millman, Vice President of Project Development with Abdo Development.
“The art studios will face onto the arts walk, and each studio will have a glass roll up, and people can let their space kind of spread out into the arts walk. We foresee artists setting up displays or going out and working on the arts walk. People might set up kiosks—like on Eastern Market—that could be used for artists that might not have their studios there,” says Millman.
Abdo actually plans to give $275,000 to support community programs, including $75,000 for scholarships to Ward 5 residents to attend Catholic University or Trinity College, and $55,000 to Dance Place.
While this all sounds amazing, Abdo's project is projected to take approximately eight years to complete - just in time to fully establish Brookland as D.C.'s new arts neighborhood. It is exciting to see D.C. investing in its neighborhoods and their regeneration through the arts. I am interested, however, in the constructed versus the inherent arts structures. Is the new Brookland arts community building on what is already there or imposing an arts paradigm on a space that cannot support it? Does it even matter if it is all in the name of community revitalization by means of the arts?
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