Morgan's Brain

Aug. 31, 2009 at 6:31am

Olympia Shows Tacoma Up

There's an article in today's Olympian (via the TNT) about the city of Olympia trying to partner with Artspace - a nonprofit development organization focused on revitalizing cities through affordable artist housing. The city of Tacoma met with this group a number of years ago, but the city did not follow though. I met with Artspace earlier this year to ask what happened and they said the city did not seem interested in their services offered. Now it seems Olympia may glide  past Tacoma in having a fully revitalized downtown and waterfront. Here's an excert from the article.

Here's an idea: considering Catapult defaulted long ago on redeveloping the vast parking lot across from city hall, maybe it's time city leaders rethink using that as a site for Artspace.

OLYMPIA – Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing for artists, is considering developing a project in Olympia and will pay a formal visit next month. And city officials are rolling out the red carpet, organizing a night of entertainment and dialogue for Sept. 16 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

City Community Services Manager Steve Friddle said city is wooing Artspace because it wants to develop more housing units downtown. The city’s current comprehensive plan, which dates to 1994, recommended 1,500 new market-rate units by 2010, but few have been built.

“On top of that, there’s a need for affordable housing,” Friddle said. “One component of that affordable housing is a group of artists. This particular group gets priced out.”

Artspace has developed 24 projects in 12 states, Vandenbrink said. Most of those are live/work spaces, although a handful are commercial buildings. The organization rehabilitates old buildings or builds new ones that typically include artists’ work and living space in the same unit. After building the projects, Artspace continues to own them and rent spaces to artists. Artspace selects tenants based on income and ability to show they have done artistic work, not based on the quality of the work, Vandenbrink said.

comments [6]  |  posted under tacoma


by fredo on 8/31/2009 @ 6:59am
Why does Artspace need to "partner" with a city to provide this housing? There are other non profit groups operating in Tacoma which have no partnership with the city government.

by AngelaJossy on 8/31/2009 @ 7:36am
Why do we need ArtSpace to achieve this? I think we can do it ourselves and not have to give up property to some company in Minneapolis. I think Speakeasy is a good first step. Now we just need a building downtown that we can house the artists in. How about The Emerson?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 8/31/2009 @ 9:24am
Short answer as to why Artspace likes Olympia, Olympia just had a Trader Joe's open in Olympia.

by morgan on 8/31/2009 @ 9:26am
I am aware of only one non-profit housing development agency in the city of Tacoma - the Tacoma Housing Authority. And they are wapped up with Salishan and other projects of a different focus than Artspace does. Tacoma needs Artspace because there really is no other alternative. Tacoma alone does not have the financial resources, or more to the point - capacity - to develop projects such as Artspace does.

by AngelaJossy on 8/31/2009 @ 10:13am
Don't forget the TAC 25 Collective does essentially the same thing. Artists currently live and work there. The 253 Collective and the Jet Collective have artist work spaces but you can't live there. Tacoma Art Place has a membership based art studio that provides art supplies, tons of equipment and classes. Now Speakeasy will hopefully become a cool place to sell art and hand-crafted products (knock on wood). The only missing piece is the living space (which TAC 25 does have in limited supply). It can be done. I have another building in mind to do it in but I don't want to say anything about it yet because the owners haven't quite decided if they want to to run with the idea. We just need a local government that is willing to work with landlords on code issues.

What I'm saying is everything doesn't have to be in the same building in order to achieve the same goal.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/31/2009 @ 1:28pm
Don't forget the Martin Luther King Housing Development... they're not just a non-profit, they're anti-profit. It's sad that these guys are so far in the hole.

But I'd like to mention that affordable housing via a governmental agency does not renovate a downtown and a waterfront. Yes, it is good to get people down there. However, it's private dollars that do the heavy lifting. If low prices and municipal control were the key to private investing, then by god, Tacoma would be wealthier than all of King County. While I fully believe that insanely over-inflated housing/commercial space/real estate/property is suicide, there has to be some return on the investment else no one will take the risk.