Keeping Asheville Creative: Artspace survey findings affect development sector

Press release from Center for Craft:

Last year, Center for Craft and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer that focuses on affordable housing, studio, and performance space for artists, to conduct a community-wide survey to assess the needs of area creatives – from individuals to cultural organizations and related businesses.

The landmark survey, taken by 1,265 individuals and 170 organizations, documents the immediate need for affordable spaces for makers, designers, and performers in Asheville. The study found that a majority of artists (86%) and arts organizations (78%) would be interested in renting space in a multi-use arts facility in Asheville, North Carolina (see the full survey results here).

In a city where affordable housing is a top concern for many locals, survey results also clearly indicated a strong need for affordability and adequate space in support of our cultural sector – the heartbeat of Asheville. “Arts and culture is a critical differentiator for Asheville. It’s important that we maintain a vibrant sector here. We hope this data will help developers understand that there is a viable market.” said Kit Cramer, President & CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Artspace recommends the development of 168 units of affordable housing and 81 units of affordable studio space for artists in Asheville’s River Arts District. In response, the City of Asheville prioritized affordable space solutions for artists at the City-owned site located at 81-91 Riverside Drive. The project for this City-owned property, the former Ice House Site, is in its planning phases and is evolving alongside the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project(RADTIP), a plan that will catalyze arts and business in the district while protecting and restoring the area’s natural and environmental resources. “The City intends to solicit development proposals for the Riverside Drive project later this fall, and the Arts Market Study report will be a helpful resource throughout this next phase,” said Interim Assistant Planning Director Stephanie Monson Dahl.

Since the survey results were reported last October, Artspace’s findings have also rippled out into the wider community. Since then, several plans for several affordable, artists-centric mixed-use developments have been submitted to the City of Asheville. The result will be the creation of more high-density, mixed-use space specifically geared towards the creative population.

One of these projects is Radview, a 22,400-square-foot live-work space for artists perched above the NC Glass Center (140c Roberts Street). Radview features 20 residential units for rent at less than $1,000 per month and includes studio, office, and retail space. These are at a price point that’s more accessible for Asheville’s artists than many other areas of the city, where affordable housing is at a crisis point.

Radview’s location pays homage to the River Arts District’s history as an incubator for artists, who repurposed neglected buildings and forged the heart of the Asheville arts scene in the last two decades. This crucible for the arts will situate artists within this historic district, bringing new vitality to an area that has become synonymous with creativity. “We feel it’s critical to provide additional artist studio workspace with retail frontage in this location, housing that will be occupied by people that actually work in the River Arts District and office space for arts-related organizations. The goal is to infuse creative energy and life into the heart of the district by activating this site 24/7,” said developer Jeremy Goldstein.

Another project currently under consideration is Create 82 Broadway, a proposed “arts-centric mixed-use development” in downtown Asheville that may include arts retail space, hotel, condos, public art, and six affordable residential units exclusively reserved for artists. These affordable units would be centrally located in the Broadway Cultural Gateway, a few steps from the Center for Craft and nearby galleries and creative organizations.

Asheville has long been known for its vibrant culture, and we are heartened that city officials and developers are taking note of the survey’s findings and incorporating those discoveries into their own planning processes,” said Center for Craft Executive Director Stephanie Moore. “These sustainable, long-term solutions will allow artists to stay – and thrive – in our community.

As the region continues to grow, it is important that we develop affordable housing solutions that serve residents and support economic vitality, while balancing the overall needs of our communities,” said Community Foundation of Western North Carolina President Elizabeth Brazas. “CFWNC is pleased that the housing and studio needs of our creative community, an essential economic driver, are being considered and addressed.

The Center for Craft and Chamber are grateful for the incredible community leadership that coalesced over the last three years to accomplish this important initiative including over 30-arts and cultural leaders as well as NC State Senator Terry Van Duyn, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, UNC Asheville, City of Asheville, The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, HomeTrust Bank, FHL Bank of Atlanta, and Duke Energy Foundation.

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