Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Colorado Springs Creative Collective moving forward with Artspace development

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 5:09 PM

The Colorado Springs Creative Collective, a group of community leaders with an interest in the arts, have been working with Minneapolis-based nonprofit Artspace, with the goal of opening an Artspace facility here in Colorado Springs. Artspace, founded in 1979, focuses on meeting the needs of artists in any given community by providing low-cost housing, studio space and/or shared space. With an eye on sustaining these spaces, Artspace attempts to keep all units in their developments at or below levels of affordability specified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Currently Artspace has 46 projects in 30 cities in 19 states. The process of creating an Artspace development here in Colorado Springs began with a feasibility study by the organization last fall, and has now completed its most recent phase: The Arts Market Survey, results of which were released Oct. 23 during a public event at Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

This extensive community survey, funded by local arts foundations and organizations, individuals, and the Economic Development Department of the city of Colorado Springs, was meant to assess the need of local artists for live/work space or other artistic developments. It concluded with 736 responses from creatives who currently (or used to) reside in the Pikes Peak Region. According to Bob Wolfson of the collective: “Artspace has shared with me that that is an impressive number for a community our size.”

With a large per-capita participation in the survey, and the need identified by those who took the survey, Artspace’s executive summary states: “Artspace has determined that there is a substantial need for new space serving the creative sector in Colorado Springs.”
click to enlarge Teri Deaver, Vice President, Consulting and Strategic Partnerships, Artspace - ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith
  • Teri Deaver, Vice President, Consulting and Strategic Partnerships, Artspace
In order to address this “substantial need,” Artspace recommends creating up to 70 units of affordable artist housing and up to 50 studio or work-only spaces, in addition to live/work housing. Should the live/work housing not come to fruition, they recommend up to 83 studio spaces. Artspace’s Teri Deaver, who presented the results of the survey on Monday night, says this is consistent with what they’ve seen in the community. With the wait list to rent space in facilities such as Cottonwood Center for the Arts, it is clear that there is a high demand for not just studio space, but affordable studio space.

Artspace arrived at these recommended numbers by adhering to a 3:1 redundancy methodology. That is, one unit was recommended per three applicants who expressed a need. According to the survey, 235 individuals are interested in relocating to affordable housing “specifically designed for artists, creative individuals and their families.”

But what will this space look like? The technical report prepared by Swan Research and Consulting shows that the three most important features as expressed by the survey respondents were: Abundant natural light, air conditioning, and direct outdoor access. Shared amenities desired by the community include gallery/exhibition space, a community garden and a general-use studio or flex space.

Deaver, who has a background in performing arts, recognized that the amenities that most respondents deemed important seemed to have a visual art focus. In attendance, Sarah Shaver of Springs Ensemble Theatre, also noticed a disparity and asked if the performing arts would have a say in what amenities might actually be included in an Artspace facility. According to Deaver and Wolfson, visual artists typically take the survey in higher numbers, but the design of the actual space would rely on input from the community throughout the process. If performance space or other resources for performing artists are deemed important to the community, then an effort will be made to include them.

On the subject of housing: The majority of respondents, 36.2 percent, were interested in one-bedroom accommodations, with 34.9 percent requesting two. Though this would accommodate the majority of household sizes, a total of 14.8 percent requested three or more bedrooms, which would provide housing to families. About 80 percent of people who took the survey live without children, but Deaver says that most of their facilities are multi-generational, meaning young artists, artists with families, retired artists and pretty much anyone else with a creative passion would be welcome.

Since Artspace attempts to operate on an affordable model (making just enough in rent to pay for building costs such as utilities, management and maintenance), pricing is understandably a large concern of the artistic public and a major focus of the Arts Market Survey. The survey indicated that 27.7 percent of respondents could afford a live/work space priced between $500-$600 a month. The second largest percentage, 25.1 percent, could commit to $700-$800.

Artspace included the following information regarding HUD-specified levels of affordability, to put these rents into perspective:

The 2017 HUD published monthly rental rates for El Paso County; Colorado Springs, CO HUD Metro, for households qualifying between 30% of AMI and 60% of AMI are as follows:
-Efficiencies ranging between $387 and $774
-One-bedrooms ranging between $414 and $828
-Two-bedrooms ranging between $497 and $994
-Three-bedrooms ranging between $574 and $1,148
-Four-bedrooms ranging between $640 and $1,281

Though the HUD rental rates indicate a difference of hundreds of dollars (which would clearly affect affordability for low-income creatives), ArtSpace’s report states that “a developer may also set rents below these limits if the project will remain financially sustainable in doing so. Further, a ‘utility allowance’ is set by HUD in recognition that utility payments and rent should both be considered when determining the maximum that a household can pay. This results in base rents that are even lower than HUD published maximums.”

This means there is little surety at the moment exactly what rent may look like in an Artspace facility until more details are taken into account, but that the income of qualified applicants and HUD levels of affordability will be considered.

Qualified applicants, in this case, are those who fall below 60 percent area-median income (AMI). In order to keep space affordable by HUD standards, Artspace requires state-allocated, federal tax credits, which are only given to facilities that serve lower-income individuals and families. According to Artspace, 59 percent of the people surveyed would qualify, which is a good indication there is a correlation between those who are interested in affordable space, and those who would qualify for it.

All of the above, of course, relates to live/work space. Artspace recommends studio space be rented at a maximum of $300 a month, with an emphasis between units priced at $100-$200 a month, which evens out to about $0.50-$1 per square foot when the square footage requested by artists is taken into account. One person attending the event asked if commercial space such as studios and galleries would disqualify an Artspace facility from receiving those federal tax credits. According to Deaver, no, but the tax credits would only fund residential units. Funding for commercial space would need to come from another source. She said the process of tracking down that funding sometimes proves “difficult.”

Survey respondents also expressed an interest in shared creative space and specialized equipment. In this case, most requested the availability of gallery/exhibition space, classroom space or pop-up gallery space. 424 respondents expressed an interest in these and related amenities, which suggests prioritizing the inclusion of shared space. Deaver says every Artspace facility includes shared space, so it is likely to be part of the conception, depending on public input throughout the pre-development process.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-05-08_at_3.35.00_pm.png
One question on everyone’s minds: location. A development with up to 70 livable units would require a large area, and Artspace currently recommends between one and two acres. In its preliminary feasibility phase (results of which were released in November of 2016), Artspace identified in its site analysis seven potential sites that could be developed, which included the old Gazette property, the Rail Lofts in the Depot District, properties in the vicinity of Cottonwood Center for the Arts and more. At the time of the report, Artspace indicated that it saw the greatest potential for development at Cottonwood, though it would have to “carve out” a large enough space. (Of note, in order to develop the Gazette building or the old St. Francis Hospital, which was also considered, Artspace would need to “coordinate with and appeal to Nor’wood [Development Group]’s larger vision for both the Hospital and Gazette buildings and related sites,” as Nor’wood owns these properties.)

The survey suggested that local artists would be most interested in an artist live/work space either in the downtown core (81 percent), or on the Westside, west of I-25 (74 percent). Other areas of town garnered the interest of less than 30 percent of respondents.

At this point in time, Wolfson says that the Colorado Springs Creative Collective plans to move forward with an Artspace facility in Colorado Springs. The next step is what Artspace calls its pre-development phase, which will cost about $750,000 total, spread out over a three-year period. Wolfson says: “That period of time is used to characterize the architectural details of it, the overall design, land acquisition and the financing. And then the third phase is construction.”

Now where will funding for construction come from? Ideally, an Artspace facility would be a community investment. Taking Artspace’s Loveland Arts Campus as an example, the most money (aside from Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which made up $5,598,880 or 56 percent of the funding) came from the private sector and philanthropic gifts (16 percent in the amount of $1,641,982). However, additional sources included the Economic Development Administration, The State Housing Trust Fund/HOME Funds, the Loveland Housing Authority and more. While we cannot necessarily count on the same sources, or numbers, within our community, Wolfson is confident the resources will be found.

One concern, raised by John Spears of the Pikes Peak Library District, was that other organizations or groups might already be doing some of the work that Artspace is currently proposing. (Of note, PPLD recently teamed up with local art organizations to bring programming to Knights of Columbus Hall, which includes performance and potential studio space.)

Deaver assured Spears that Artspace is always open to partnerships, or is happy to step back if someone in the community is already doing the work. “If you’re running with this already, if it’s already happening,” she says, “we are here as technical assistance, or we’re here to be like ‘okay we’re done, you’re good.’ ... We’re not here to stomp on anything that’s going on. We’re here to support and complement what’s going on.”

The pre-development phase, Wolfson says, will require community input and may include more community meetings. In order to receive updates, interested artists, creatives or community members may sign up for the collective’s mailing list.

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