aka: Artist Housing

One of the issues of the 76th Street Developments is “What kind of affordable housing?” There are many kinds. At the meetings the developers and city staff quickly went to the old favorite, “more senior housing” option. While housing for seniors needed in the metro area, it appears to be unevenly distributed with Richfield having far more than its far share not only serving its own seniors but the seniors of other communities as well. A better option is to develop affordable housing for young professionals which has never been considered an option in development in Richfield. Whereas not much growth occurs after the development of senior housing, neighborhood development typically follows within three years of the completion of an artists’ live/work project. This development in turn helps generate other cultural activity and creates a general increase in visitors to the area.

One of the problems is location, would artists really be interested in locating to Richfield? A Washington Post article “Giving Artiest Space to Create” writes about that issue with a work/live artist housing development, the “Douglass Street project” in the Washington DC area.

The biggest downside of the Douglass Street project is its location. While Mather Studios is in the heart of downtown, the Douglass Street project is in Northeast, near New York Avenue.

According to Corbett, that has not deterred artists from trying for the work-live spaces. “The bottom line for artists is about affordability and functionality.” It’s often difficult to make those two factors work, Corbett said, so “generally artists are willing to compromise on location.” Her organization, she said, keeps an eye out for publicly owned property. “That’s the real difficulty in D.C. Unlike Baltimore, we just don’t have any kind of inventory of low-rent industrial space for artists.”

While developing artist housing in Richfield isn’t going to create a “great sucking sound” of artists leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul, there is a real viable need for artist housing in the south suburbs near accessible transportation. The site at 76st and Lyndale is the perfect location. Most people think of artist housing as big lofts in old warehouses, and for a time, when no one wanted old warehousing, that was the case Some time back in the 1980s warehouse space got sheik and artists got the boot out of Minneapolis’ Warehouse District and St. Paul’s Lowertown by developers looking to create “loft-style living” for those with big money to live the loft lifestyle. Only a lucky few artists today live in old warehouses mostly because of efforts of organizations like Artspace. While artist space is still being developed out of renovated old buildings, more and more artist housing that is being developed today is new housing, such as work/live housing on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis or the Hiawatha Artist Lofts in Seattle.

  • Richfield must position the area as attractive as possible to young professionals. Work/live spaces help fulfill this goal.
  • Richfield can be home to artists, priced out of trendy neighborhoods in search of a lower cost of living/workspace and higher quality of life.
  • Many artists support themselves with second jobs, many of those jobs are out in the suburbs. Higher gas prices lend to the appeal of living closer to work.