Olympia Artspace Alliance

Olympia, Washington

Challenge:

In 2008, amid a burgeoning real estate market and growing conversation about increasing downtown residential options, rising property values and rents were beginning to price artists out of Olympia (pop. ~50,000). Creating more space for artists to live and work, along the lines of an Artspace live/work development, was necessary to keep artists in Olympia, support the local creative economy, and complement ongoing downtown redevelopment efforts.

Goals:

  • Refine the project concept based on the needs of the creative community.
  • Determine the feasibility of an arts-focused, affordable mixed-use project that could combine: affordable live/work space, artist studio-only space, complementary commercial spaces, and/or an art center in Olympia.
  • Help local leaders navigate the path toward the identified priority project concept. 

Scopes of Work:

In 2009, the City Council voted to engage Artspace in a Preliminary Feasibility Study regarding a potential live/work development in downtown Olympia. 

In 2011, local stakeholders formed the Olympia Artspace Alliance (OAA), a 501 c 3 non-profit dedicated to advocating for affordable creative spaces in Olympia and in 2014 OAA was able to re-engage Artspace to conduct an Arts Market Study to quantify and describe the demand for creative space. In 2015, with Artspace’s help, OAA identified and was awarded a grant from JP Morgan Chase Foundation to reengage Artspace to conduct an additional, updated and in-depth feasibility study focused on financial opportunities and viability.

Outcomes:

The initial 2009 Preliminary Feasibility Study revealed great potential for and interest in an Artspace-style affordable mixed-use live/work project. The study and presentation of its findings were extremely useful in engaging the City Council, providing focusing for city staffers and other stakeholders, and building excitement and engagement among the public. 

However, the timing was unfortunate, as the recession had changed both the economic and political reality in Olympia. A new city council decided not to proceed forward with the “visionary idea.”

At the conclusion of the Arts Market Study and updated feasibility study in 2015, it was determined though the demand was there, an Artspace-style live/work project was not feasible and Artspace recommended a third-party project focused on commercial studio space be pursued.

Despite not ultimately concluding with an Artspace live/work development in Olympia, OAA considers the three consulting engagements with Artspace to have been successful in driving the creation of space for artists in downtown Olympia.

Since Artspace's market study, plans for two new developments in downtown have been announced: one new-construction artist residential, and one mixed-use residential with 13 artists studios in a historic building. There are also conversations about a new art museum/center, and an initiative to put temporary art installations in downtown storefronts. All these projects are supported by a new energy and a stronger chorus locally about artist space, a phenomenon locally credited in part to Artspace.

“OAA is better prepared to have these conversations, share data and information, point to images and examples, because of our work with Artspace. Artspace knew what questions we should be prepared to answer, what it means to put together a realistic budget, etc., because they’d done this all before. They overall helped to professionalize the efforts of our completely volunteer-run nonprofit...They added external credibility. We felt like we had allies.”   - Kris Tucker, Board Chair, Olympia Artspace Alliance

 

 

Visit Olympia Artspace Alliance's website: https://olympiaartspace.org/

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