Artspace likes Augusta, but project will take time

Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 10:55 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 2:03 AM
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Artspace developers want to build affordable work and living spaces for artists in Augusta, but it could take years and miles of bureaucratic red tape before that becomes a reality.

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Artspace, a non profit real estate development firm, held a presentation Monday about the potential of creative real estate in Augusta. The group builds apartments and art studios with low-income tax credits and donations.   TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Artspace, a non profit real estate development firm, held a presentation Monday about the potential of creative real estate in Augusta. The group builds apartments and art studios with low-income tax credits and donations.

The nonprofit real estate development company returned to Augusta on Monday to reveal the results of a survey conducted this summer that gauged demand for a potential project. Of 602 artists surveyed, 186 would be interested in renting either a blended apartment/work studio space or a creative space alone.

Artspace project manager Joe Butler said that interest could make Augusta a candidate for a 50,000-square-foot, 40-unit project ideally set in the cultural district of downtown, bordered by the Savannah River, 10th, Walker and Fifth streets.

What’s needed now is governmental support so a lengthy process of securing funding and feasibility planning can begin.

“If Augusta wants this, it’s going to require some local champions,” Butler said. “Folks that will continue to have a vision over the course of the next several years.”

The Augusta Commission must now take up the issue of signing on to a pre-development contract with Artspace, which Mayor Deke Copenhaver said could be discussed within the next several months. If a contract is signed, the group would begin “a deeper level of information gathering,” that would include forming a steering committee, identifying potential buildings to renovate, and applying for funding, Butler said.

Artspace utilizes federal low-income housing tax credits to pay for roughly 60 percent of project costs. The rest is paid for in philanthropic donations and city and state funding.

Vice president for special projects Roy Close said the low-income tax credits are useful but are difficult to secure and not guaranteed. He said he hopes government officials approve the partnership with Artspace sooner rather than later so the group can begin applying for the tax credits before Georgia’s 2014 deadline.

It could then take a three- to four-year process to complete a project, he said.

“This is not just for the artists,” Cross said. “This is for the community. It’s been measured, and these projects do in fact make for stronger neighborhoods.”

Since its launch in 1979, Artspace has completed 35 projects across the country, with 12 more under construction or in the pre-development phase.

Of the 186 interested artists in Augusta, 41 percent live at or below 60 percent of the area median income, boosting the project’s chances of securing the tax credits.

Forty-three percent use a space in their home to work and 40 percent don’t have a dedicated space at all. The responders were largely younger than 30 years old and specialized mostly in painting, drawing, music and photography.

Augusta jazz musician Karen Gordon said blended artistic real estate not only helps the artists but could also bring a revitalization to the culture of downtown.

“To have a place where artists, musicians, sculptors and painters could work and live together, it’s just exciting,” she said. “Collaboration is important in all industries, not just education not just technology ... it reminds me of the Harlem Renaissance, some artists and musicians supporting each other’s projects.”

Jesse Lee Vaughn, painter and owner of Americana Artworks and the Haunted Pillar Tattoo parlors, said the building could help solve a problem many artists find in Augusta, which is a lack of affordable real estate to create art or make music.

Copenhaver said the commission has been supportive of the Artspace concept since developers first visited the city in 2012. However, it could take some time, especially with holidays approaching, to have a public discussion and vote.

In the meantime, Greater Augusta Arts Council Executive Director Brenda Durant said the community must keep the Artspace project on the radar. She urged supporters to prepare questions to pitch to November 2014 election candidates as they campaign around the city, and let them know this is a priority.

“If the question is continually asked ... that’s going to resonate,” she said.

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countyman
20120
Points
countyman 11/19/13 - 02:06 am
1
2
Proactive

Any city that strives to be considered hip, eclectic, sexy, fun, cool, unique, cosmopolitan, etc will do anything necessary to make this become reality. It's been proven that many people want to live near artistic people and businesses want to locate around them.

This is a great chance for the city to finally promote downtown. The citizens and local philanthropists are both excited and they can help draw interest towards the private funds needed. The same people would be intrested about the Miller and future Performing arts center too. The Artspace development, renovate Miller, and the performing arts center give the city a great advantage over the competition and create a beautiful entertainment district.

The city desperately needs to attract the creative class which helps grow our burgeoning high tech economy..

The festivals, Le Chat, Miller, Imperial, Artist Row, etc is already located in the CBD. Every part of the county must play their role and the CBD is the cultural epicenter of the CSRA. The artsy vibe in the CBD will help attract the high tech manufacturing jobs to both South/East Augusta and multiple white collar office jobs to West Augusta/ North Richmond.

Little Lamb
45904
Points
Little Lamb 11/19/13 - 11:03 am
1
1
Affordable

First, we had the Affordable Care Act, which provides government subsidies to people to pay their health insurance premiums. Of course the subsidies come from the middle class and wealthy who also have to pay their own insurance premiums without benefit of subsidy.

Next, we are about to get the Affordable Flood Insurance Act, which will provide government subsidies to people in flood plains. Of course the subsidies come from people who don't live in flood plains.

Here, we see this:

Artspace developers want to build affordable work and living spaces for artists in Augusta. What’s needed now is governmental support.

So now the non-artists will be subsidizing the artists to pay their rent.

It never ends.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 11/19/13 - 04:17 pm
0
0
First thought was right along

First thought was right along with you LL. Another government-involved project to redistribute wealth. I then saw the other angle (even before the ever-punctual Countyman comment). There is no faking culture and authenticity. If you want the artists down there and want their prescence to transcend into cultural credibility, they ain't gonna get there on their own. Art market isn't as lucrative as folks let on. (rofl) My point is, if the city wants to go this route and make downtown artsy, they have to cough up enough to make it happen. It's not the onus of the artist to live and work where the city benefits the most now is it?

Little Lamb
45904
Points
Little Lamb 11/19/13 - 05:21 pm
1
0
Subsidy

David Parker posted:

My point is, if the city wants to go this route and make downtown artsy, they have to cough up enough to make it happen.

The trouble is, the money the city coughs us is somebody else's money, i.e., yours and mine.

Gage Creed
17203
Points
Gage Creed 11/19/13 - 08:29 pm
0
0
Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 11/20/13 - 10:17 pm
1
0
Interesting.......

....County posted,... "Any city that strives to be considered hip, eclectic, sexy, fun, cool, unique, cosmopolitan, etc will do anything necessary to make this become reality."
Including becoming a glorified Section 8 housing project to do it?
Then David Parker posts,...."My point is, if the city wants to go this route and make downtown artsy, they have to cough up enough to make it happen."
FYI..the city is 8 mil in the hole.

Talking about art is like thinking about eating...
It's great in the abstract, but until you have the cash to pay for it, it's still a pipe dream.

And all the "affordable housing" i.e "subsidized housing" to pay for artists who (according to Artspace's own guidelines) don't even have to BE artists is another colossal waste of MY tax money....

Whoever supports this should go back to Haight-Ashbury and smoke another "doobie" and get a better game plan...cause what I see here is a joke....a BAD one at that.

Brad Owens
4423
Points
Brad Owens 11/20/13 - 11:35 pm
1
0
Another scam...

How much did we pay already? Who are these all of a sudden out of town folks all interested in Augusta?

Here is the give away that this is a scam, "What’s needed now is governmental support..."

Really? Then it must not be a money maker huh? I guess the word is out all across the U.S.A. that if you want an easy "fish-in-a-barrel" taxpayer looters paradise Augusta is your place baby!

Brad

Bulldog
1324
Points
Bulldog 11/21/13 - 08:31 am
0
0
Other peoples money

As long as this remains a scheme that leverages only FEDERAL money then I am not particularly concerned; however, I am dead set against any involvement by LOCAL taxpayers! Why should ANYONE be more entitled to MY money than ME! Besides, how will blues artists ever be able to "pay their dues"?

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