Local community art gallery ZaPow seems to have lost its battle to renew its lease in the Battery Park building it has called home for over five years. Gallery owner Lauren Patton was notified yesterday, June 21, that her landlord’s offer for lease renewal had been withdrawn after Patton sought community support following a proposed substantial rent increase.
Knowing her gallery’s lease was set to expire soon, Patton says she repeatedly requested lease renewal terms from her landlord over the last six months.
On June 12, the lease renewal terms finally hit Patton’s inbox.
In that email, Patton was sent several offers ranging from a 17 to a 22 percent increase in rent as well as an additional deposit of several thousand dollars.
“We had 18 days before he was going to start putting up for lease signs in our windows,” Patton said.
As a community art space, ZaPow offers gallery placement to local artists whose work might otherwise go unseen. The proposed rent hike would mean passing those costs on to the many artists who pay a modest monthly fee for membership in the co-op.
Having recently attended an Asheville Grown Business Alliance workshop on negotiating lease agreements, Patton reached out to legal counsel in an attempt to mediate the situation with her landlord.
She also started a GoFundMe campaign to help mitigate the financial burden associated with a potential rent hike and notified local media outlets of the situation.
By June 22, the GoFundMe had raised almost $9,000 toward its online goal, which totals $10,000 including private offline donations.
“We’ve been really incredibly touched by the interest from the community in keeping ZaPow open,” Patton said.
However, yesterday, Patton received a letter from her landlord’s attorney requesting that Patton and the ZaPow Gallery take every internet posting down with reference to their leasing situation. If Patton does not comply, continued the letter, the landlord will bring a defamation lawsuit.
The same letter informed Patton that her lease is no longer available for renewal and ZaPow will need to vacate the space.
While still very early in the moving process, Patton has her eyes on other locations that might be a good home for the gallery.
“We’re looking at the South Slope, but that’s not a definite,” Patton said.
The ‘For Lease’ signs will go up in ZaPow’s windows on July 1.