July 12, 2019

Renovations begin on Cameron initiative to create affordable artist live-work space, studios and creative spaces in Petersburg

The Cameron Foundation celebrated the groundbreaking of a new development in Petersburg on July 12, 2019, following more than five years of study and predevelopment work to create affordable artist live-work space. The initiative is a key component of a much larger, 226-unit, $57 million investment, ArtistSpace Loft Apartments, which is being undertaken by 110 South Perry, LLC. In addition to efficiency, 1- and 2-bedroom units, the project includes a four-story atrium, artist live-work spaces, art galleries, studios, and state-of-the-art amenities. The full endeavor is one of the largest economic development initiatives in downtown Petersburg in recent years.

“This groundbreaking is an important milestone in Cameron’s efforts to bring affordable artist live-work units and creative placemaker spaces to this community,” noted The Cameron Foundation’s president, J. Todd Graham. The artist components of the project result from a national model developed by Artspace Projects, Inc., the nation’s leading nonprofit developer for the arts. ArtistSpace Loft Apartments represents a unique partnership between the for-profit developer 110 South Perry, LLC and the nonprofit community.

The Artspace Projects model centers on developing affordable space where artists of all disciplines may live, work and pursue their art, as well as space where arts organizations and creative businesses can thrive. In the artist live-work units, the design calls for each of the apartments to include extra space – 100 to 150 square feet – that an artist can use as a studio.

Work on the concept began in 2013, when The Cameron Foundation invited Artspace Projects to visit Petersburg to explore the possibility of launching a new development. Artspace Projects met with civic leaders, area funders and artists, and toured the community to view several potential properties. The nonprofit developer subsequently entered into a partnership with The Cameron Foundation, the City of Petersburg, and the City of Richmond to conduct an Artist Market Survey in 2014. A local artist work group and CultureWorks assisted in engaging artists to participate in the survey. Over 730 individuals and 105 creative/cultural organizations and businesses responded, with the results pointing to the viability of adding a potential development to attract a larger artist community to the City of Petersburg.

Having demonstrated market support to move forward, The Cameron Foundation considered a number of options but could not find facilities to match the needs for the project. “We determined that, rather than developing a stand-alone site, we could better leverage our resources by dovetailing into a much larger real estate development project in Petersburg that was getting under way,” explained Graham. The Foundation received technical assistance from Virginia LISC to implement the initiative and worked with Artspace Projects, Inc. to adapt its model for a partnership with a for-profit developer.

ArtistSpace Loft Apartments is located at 100, 110 and 120 South Perry Street and is the capstone of the seven-building, $100 million apartment and office complex on the former Brown & Williamson campus. The site also includes the 148-unit Perry Street Lofts and the 33-unit Cameron Building Lofts (not related to The Cameron Foundation). The artist housing and creative spaces are slated for the first and second floors of the New Perry Building, located at 110-120 South Perry Street.

Artspace Projects provided guidance on the building design features based on its model and on input from a series of local artist focus groups. The artist housing and creative space component, estimated to cost $11 million, consists of 50 artist live-work affordable rental units, 13 artist studios, and amenity spaces. The artist live-work apartments themselves include 13 efficiency, 32 one-bedroom, and five two-bedroom units. The units are targeted to artists at 40-80% of the Area Median Income. The plans also incorporate green building practices of “daylighting” with 80 additional windows and a four-story atrium for the entire building. This will enhance natural light which is essential for artistic endeavors.

Live-work units will be rented to qualified artists who have been vetted based on tenant guidelines developed in partnership with Artspace. Applicants need not derive their primary income from their art, as it is customary for artists to work in another field to support themselves and their art form. An artist selection committee will screen applicants to determine their participation in, and commitment to, the arts. Completion of the artist live-work units is anticipated in late 2020. The Cameron Foundation has committed a total of about $400,000 toward the $11 million affordable artist housing component.

“Artists are the ultimate urban pioneers who attract investment wherever they locate. Artist live-work projects are a proven model that help to transform communities and spur economic development,” explained Graham.

According to Wendy Holmes, Senior Vice President—Consulting and Strategic Partnerships at Artspace, the accommodations offer multiple benefits to communities. They allow individual artists and arts organizations to be more productive and to increase their arts-related income. They put deteriorated historic structures and underutilized spaces back onto the tax rolls and boost area property values while maintaining affordability for the creative community. Additionally, they help to expand access to the arts, attract tourists, retain artists, as well as attract additional artists, creative businesses and organizations, and investment to an area. “Artspace is honored to have played a role to help advance this important development for the City and the region’s growing creative sector,” Holmes said.

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