It's an old story—repeated from SoHo in New York in the 70s to SoMa in San Francisco in the 90s—the artists move in, the rents go up, the artists move on. But in the last 40 years, cities have learned that there are alternatives to this shell game that gentrifies the avant-garde. Live/work development has been used successfully in many cites as a way of enabling working artists to stay in the neighborhoods that they have helped to revitalize.
"Developing spaces that keep artists and creative people living and working in our downtown is essential to maintaining our city's appealing character," says Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of the Creative Portland Corporation and the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance (PACA). "We know that a vibrant arts scene attracts commercial activity and helps keep our local economy strong." To this end, Creative Portland has invited representatives from Artspace—a nonprofit based in Minneapolis, Minn. that specializes in the development of artist live/work spaces—for a two-day visit next week to help assess the conditions for such development in Portland. Artspace will meet with everyone from real estate developers, philanthropists and city officials, to community members, artists and cultural institutions to determine the needs and interest in this type of project, and to help frame the issues that would need to be resolved among these parties.
While in Portland, Artspace will also visit three potential development sites: the Portland Public Works garage at 55 Portland Street; the Masonic Temple at 8 Chestnut Street; and a block of properties at the corners of Hampshire Street and Federal Street in the India Street neighborhood. It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see what turning one of these underutilized buildings into a live/work development could do both for local artists and for artists looking to relocate here from elsewhere.
A highlight of the Artspace visit will be a free public presentation, on Thursday, September 29, at 6:00 p.m. in the Rines Auditorium of the Portland Public Library. After a 30-45 minute interactive presentation about Artspace’s model for developing artist live/work space and examples of their projects throughout the country, the audience will be invited ask questions, provide feedback and contribute their views on community needs and interest in a live/work project in Portland.
Artspace has a national overview on creating affordable space for the artists and arts organizations, and they've been doing it for more than 30 years. Andy Graham, President of Creative Portland, says "I'm happy to have Artspace visit Portland because it gives us an opportunity to talk about what is missing in Portland, to imagine together what Portland needs to be even better."