Developer seeks to make room for local artists

Photo by Greg Foley (l-r) Jeremy Staab, Shaela Wilson, Becky Carlson St. Clair and Naomi Chu

The Northside Artspace Lofts in the Harrison Neighborhood of Minneapolis hosted an open house on June 22 to welcome new and future applicants to the newly constructed building.

The building was developed by Artspace, a nonprofit arts organization committed to providing affordable and sustainable housing for artists and creative businesses.

Located in what used to be a brownfield and former industrial site in the Harrison neighborhood, the site needed redevelopment to better serve the neighborhood and environment.

The mixed-use redevelopment is a five-story building that offers 100 live/work units and up to 3,500
square feet of adaptive commercial space for art-oriented businesses and organizations.
The building offers residents amenities that include a large gallery at the main entrance, community workspaces, and three studios including a soundproof mixed media and dance studio.

Many of the units have two or three bedrooms to accommodate families and multi-occupancy households.
Jeremy Staab, the director of national advancement, said the building adds value to an existing “rich
culture” of supporting the arts within the community, specifically the Black and African American
community.

“There’s been a hindrance to wealth development in Communities of Color,” Staab said. He
explains how redlining forced a lot of people to be relocated to the neighborhood and establish deep roots in the community. He said the building will provide a center for creatives to come together to
address socio-economic issues and strengthen artist voices.

Before coming to North Minneapolis, the first Artspace project in Minnesota was the Northern
Warehouse Artist Lofts in 1990. The organization saw a need for artist housing in the Twin Cities according to Shaela Wilson, the asset manager. “We saw artists being displaced because of affordability issues,” said Wilson.

“Our mission is to provide affordable and sustainable housing,” Wilson said. “They won’t have
to worry about being displaced.” The organization initiated projects specifically for artists and art organizations by using low-income housing tax credits for artist housing.

Naomi Chu, vice president of the asset management department, said the “affordability” is set by
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They follow HUD guidelines that
set the Area Median Income (AMI)—the midpoint income for the Twin Cities metropolitan area. For
the Northside Artspace Lofts, the AMI is set at 30, 50, and 60 percent. To qualify, applicants must fit
within the required AMIs.

According to Chu, Artspace conducted a market study in the community before determining
that the area was feasible for developing an affordable housing project for artists. They found there
was a need for artist housing in the Harrison neighborhood.

Chu acknowledged that they were drawn into the area by community partnerships.” Artspace
partnered with Juxtaposition Arts, a youth-oriented nonprofit in North Minneapolis, throughout the whole development including contract and design work. “They do such incredible work here,” Chu
said.

Becky Carlson St. Clair, the property development director, explained that the organization was
purposeful in choosing its architect and general contractor. Artspace worked with LBH Architects
because they were able to create designs that serve as a loose framework for the development. WatsonForsberg was chosen as general contractor because of their knowledge and previous experience with affordable housing.

It’s really a partnership of trying to figure out what makes sense for an artist,” said St. Clair.
“Each building is unique to the location that they’re in.” She said basic design features like durable surfaces, large windows, and open layouts make the spaces conducive for artists working in their spaces.
In selecting applicants, Artspace gives preference to applicants who demonstrate a commitment to the arts. Chu said residents will work with Wilson to establish the rules and guidelines in the building.

Sam De Leon welcomes reader responses to sdeleon@spokesman-recorder.com.

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