Jul 1, 2016

Artspace lands site for affordable artist housing in RiNo

Artspace has narrowed in on a site in Denver’s River North Art District for an 80- to 100-unit project.

Artspace has signed an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with Denver-based Westfield Company to start working on a development plan for a portion of a 14-acre site Westfield owns at 40th Street and Brighton Boulevard, said Wendy Holmes, Artspace senior vice president for consulting and strategic partnerships.

Funding for the project, which would likely include a mix of permanently affordable live-work units and nonresidential space for creative use, has yet to be identified, Holmes said. Potential sources include low-income housing tax credits, philanthropic dollars and city resources.

The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Denver Arts & Venues, Denver Foundation and the RiNo Business Improvement Districtare providing pre-development support to help with the cost of design, legal counsel and other services needed to get the project construction ready.

“A number of developers were really interested in figuring out if a portion of their project could be carved out for artist space. It’s a development community that’s rather unusual in that regard,” Holmes said. “They all understand the importance of keeping and preserving affordable space for the creative sector and it’s at a critical time when affordability is being compromised and displacement is happening.”

A year-long Artspace feasibility study, commissioned by Denver Arts & Venues, identified a critical need for affordable creative space in RiNo last year. The former industrial area is in the midst of a massive development boom that is pushing up rents and the cost of land throughout the neighborhood.

“The neighborhood as a whole, we as an organization, are pretty excited and overwhelmed this is actually coming to fruition especially at a pretty tough time,” RiNo Art District executive director Jamie Licko said. “A lot of property has been gobbled up and land prices have gotten high. We’re fighting the fight to keep artists here. To still be able to pull off an Artspace project is just an incredible thing for this neighborhood.”

Westfield has yet to unveil its plans for the rest of the Brighton Boulevard site, but partner Anne Hayes said it will be a vibrant mixed-use development, with Artspace as one of many “synergistic” elements.

“We just feel that the neighborhood in general is one that fosters creativity and there’s a lot of artists that live there,” Hayes said. “We want to support the concept of let’s keep our artists in RiNo.”

Read the full article from the Denver Post here