Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Downtown Seattle Artist Space

For thirty years, I was a government arts funder, before I got into real estate. And I have been looking for ways to marry my two interests, and give back to the artist community. "ArtHaven" is the DBA for the charitable arm of my real estate brokerage, to help artists find spaces for their work.

Here is an image from an artist's studio in downtown Seattle, where I toured the 57 Biscayne studio project today along with two other artist/developers looking for opportunities to create similar space. This project consists of 13 artist studios, all full, no vacancies, that were developed by artist Jane Richlovsky with relocation funds from the state Department of Transportation.

You see in this photo some of the elements that artists find attractive in communal work space: high ceilings, tall windows with good light, hard wood floors, exposed brick wall, and lots of charm and character. This is located right downtown in the "arts district" of Pioneer Square, on the walk-up second floor of a historic building.

Ms. Richlovsky negotiated an attractive five year lease two years ago, when the commercial market was still in the doldrums and there were many commercial vacancies. That picture is changing in downtown Seattle, and she worries what will happen in three years, when her lease is up for renewal and re-negotiation. Yet, each of the artists with whom I met wanted to be in the urban core of Seattle, with lots of foot traffic to help promote viewing their work, as well as studio space to work. This likely means leasing, rather than buying space. So the cycle of artists being priced out as the commercial market improves is likely to be repeated.

Permanence comes with ownership, and this is difficult in the urban core without significant subsidy, grants, tax credits and low-interest loans. Most artist co-ops or ownership models fringe the urban core, in Capitol Hill, SODO, Columbia City, Jackson Place, Central District, West Seattle, Georgetown.

But for those artists committed to downtown, the next steps are to make a lot of calls to commercial leasing agents downtown, and to go look at a lot of spaces. I loved Jane Richlovsky's business model, as it is very similar to the one I use for residential leasing. I will talk more about this in tomorrow's blog.

Meanwhile, I have offered my assistance to these artists, and others who are looking for ways to own or lease Seattle space for making art. Please contact me at HomeLandInvestment@gmail.com if you would like help in this arena.

Happy investing!

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