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VOL. 126 | NO. 100 | Monday, May 23, 2011

South Main Space In Artspace Crosshairs

STACEY WIEDOWER

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National nonprofit group Artspace Projects Inc. has moved several steps closer to bringing a planned live/work development for local artists to the South Main Historic Arts District.

Results of a survey launched late last year through a partnership between Artspace, the city, Hyde Family Foundations and local arts groups have been released. Now, Artspace is using the survey, which examined the needs of local artists in a wide range of media, as a guide as it seeks the right property for its planned artists’ residence.

“We’ve looked at 10 different properties in the South Main area and narrowed it down to two,” said Wendy Holmes, senior vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships for Artspace. “We’re beginning to do due diligence on those properties, talking to owners and getting input from various stakeholders.”

Holmes said the group expects to begin negotiations for the selected property this summer and to have site control by July.

Artspace, which works to create affordable live/work space for artists in cities across the country, came to Memphis in mid-2010 after the city received a grant for the creation of artist live/work space from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

“We’re not like a for-profit developer who comes into town and speculates,” Holmes said. “We’re about creating a sustainable space that’s affordable for artists for the long term.”

The NEA grant came on the heels of a visit to the city last year by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman. During that visit, Landesman examined development in the South Main Arts District. He was particularly excited, said Hyde Family Foundations program officer Gretchen McLennon, by the relocation of Memphis College of Art’s graduate school to the district.

“To have 120 creative types going to school in the area, they thought now more than ever was time for the city to capitalize on their presence to provide affordable housing,” McLennon said when the survey was launched in November.

Moving forward, Holmes said, Artspace will apply for low-income housing tax credits in spring 2012 to help fund the project. By that point, she expects architectural plans for the structure to be complete.

“If we actually get the tax credits from the state housing finance agency in 2012, then we would be under construction in 2013 and opening in 2014,” she said.

The facility itself will contain 50 to 70 units of live/work space for local artists and their families, plus an as-yet undetermined amount of ground-floor nonresidential space. The artists’ survey will come into play in determining the use of that space, which could serve as office space for other arts-related nonprofits or businesses, studio space for individual artists, or gallery or performance space.

Kerry Hayes, special assistant to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., said the residences will likely be 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet, and the project could include some new construction depending on needs and resources.

“Once we have the price tag, we’ll have to look at federal financing tools and New Markets Tax Credits, and there will have to be some private fund raising,” he said.

For its part, the city co-funded the Artspace survey and has worked to facilitate relationships among Artspace, local arts stakeholders and South Main property owners, Hayes said, adding that the price tags of the buildings Artspace is examining are “not outrageous.”

“The immediate next step is to set our crosshairs on the property we want, which we hope to have done in the next few weeks,” he said.

The Artspace survey had three objectives: to quantify demand for artist live/work space and studio rental space, to determine design or building features needed by artists, and to formulate a picture of the artists themselves, including their arts activities, their current living and work arrangements and their ability to pay for new live/work space.

A total of 515 artists responded to the survey, 41 percent of whom expressed an interest in relocating to an artists’ live/work community in Memphis. In addition, 42 percent expressed interest in renting studio or workspace and 81 percent expressed interest in at least one form of participation in a multiuse arts facility in Memphis.

Survey respondents ranged from visual artists to writers, musicians and arts educators. Fifty-five percent of respondents were 30 or younger, and only 5 percent currently rent studio space outside their home. The full Artspace Memphis report is available at http://www.memphistn.gov/pdf_forms/memphisReportFinal.pdf.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 120 120 21,080
MORTGAGES 130 130 24,262
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 3,101
BUILDING PERMITS 138 138 43,572
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 13,512
BUSINESS LICENSES 13 13 6,725
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 7 7 7,906
MARRIAGE LICENSES 19 19 4,753