Feasibility Study Offers Market Realities, Options as Project Progresses

Feasibility Study Offers Market Realities, Options as Project Progresses

by Kris Tucker, OAA Board Chair

October 2015

This past year we received a grant from JP Morgan Chase Foundation – as well as generous funding from the Freas Foundation, the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, and the Nisqually Tribe. This funding enabled us to contract with Artspace Projects, Inc., a national organization specializing in artist live/work projects across the country. We hired them to analyze potential sites, the local market, community support, and financial models.

We have just received that analysis, which confirmed the timeliness and relevance of our efforts –the synergy of our project with the City’s goals as identified in many planning documents – and the challenges of securing the necessary financing.

We are now identifying our options for moving forward. This is a long-term, complex project with many moving pieces. Our group’s next steps include further analysis of funding options, honing in on the space plan and site, and identifying potential developers.

This is an exciting, and significant, time for Olympia Artspace Alliance. We will soon make decisions that lead the organization from pursuing a concept to selecting a model and site that will help us realize our goal.

Our board of directors is a diverse and dedicated group of volunteers that remain committed to developing a facility that will benefit local artists, the arts community, and the Olympia region.

Thank you for your interest in the project and for your support!

Grant Assists in Pre-development for Artist Housing

A downtown Olympia building site and space plan are on the Olympia Artspace Alliance agenda for 2015

OLYMPIA – Olympia Artspace Alliance (OAA) has been awarded a $50,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase Foundation. The grant will help OAA take steps toward its goal to build affordable apartments designed for artists, with their families, to both live and work in downtown Olympia.

“JPMorgan Chase Foundation takes pride in our history of supporting organizations and programs that impact the economic growth and vitality of neighborhoods and cities,” said Cat Martin, Global Philanthropy Region Manager for JPMorgan Chase. “This project is pioneering and cultivates investment in community businesses and distressed neighborhoods.”

Over the next year, OAA will use the grant to achieve its pre-development goals for 2015:

  • Identify potential building sites in downtown Olympia for the project.
  • Build partnerships with local civic leaders.
  • Create a proposed space plan for the building.
  • Write a preliminary financial plan and timeline for funding the project.

OAA will also work to identify arts-related organizations to occupy the building’s street-level floor.

To assist with pre-development, OAA anticipates contracting with Artspace Projects, Inc., a Minneapolis-based nonprofit corporation that specializes in developing affordable housing for artists and their families. API owns and operates 35 similar projects in 15 states, including three in Seattle, one in Everett and one in Portland, Ore.

“Projects like this benefit artists, strengthen neighborhoods, increase public safety, and help inform and inspire an arts-centered community transformation,” said Kelley Lindquist, President of Artspace, the nation’s largest nonprofit arts development company.

In 2013 OAA contracted for a market survey which concluded that there is a sufficiently strong interest among local artists and arts organizations to ensure a successful and sustainable project. The survey also helped determine the features which would meet the needs of proposed building tenants.

The support of the Thurston County community has helped propel the Artspace project forward since its inception.  In 2009 hundreds of citizens participated in an introductory feasibility study funded by City of Olympia. The study concluded that downtown Olympia is a location where an artist residential project would likely be successful.

“This is a game changer project for our downtown and can lead to future economic investment from the private sector,” said Olympia City Councilmember Cheryl Selby. “This grant will enable the next important steps forward for this project,” she added.

Moving the project forward requires a nonprofit organization to build community support, manage the project and raise funds. To fulfill that role, OAA organized as a not-for-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status in 2011.

OAA board members are local residents who are volunteering their time and expertise to build this project with arts-related commercial space on the first floor. Members believe that the project will enhance downtown’s economic vitality, create more opportunities to learn and experience the arts, attract more residents and visitors to the downtown core, and increase downtown safety.

Survey Identifies Need for Affordable New Space for Artists, Creative Businesses

Regional survey draws 700 responses, shows Olympia-area demand for creative spaces

OLYMPIA ­_ A recently completed survey of Olympia-area artists and creative organizations and businesses has revealed a strong need for affordable spaces to live and work, and a preference for siting such a project in downtown Olympia.

The findings provide important information for a local effort to build a multi-use center to provide affordable housing and studio space for artists and their families, with compatible businesses and organizations on the street level.

The survey was commissioned by Olympia Artspace Alliance, a local nonprofit organization established in 2011. The survey sought to assess the demand for creative spaces in the Olympia area, and to articulate design elements, building features, and amenities preferred by artists and creative organizations and businesses.

602 artists and 97 organizations and businesses completed the survey, conducted October through December 2013.

Olympia artist and OAA Board member Tom Anderson sees this project as a catalyst for economic development as well as for supporting the creative community. “Artspace projects in other cities have demonstrated that the arts are healthy and positive solutions to their challenges,” he observes. “The future of Olympia will be determined by bold, imaginative solutions.”

The envisioned project will bring new residents and businesses to downtown Olympia, and provide a center for arts and creativity that has broad benefits for the region. Similar projects elsewhere stimulate nearby business activity and contribute to the safety and vitality of broader neighborhood.

The survey recommends up to 52 affordable live/work units in downtown Olympia, plus up to 37 studio spaces for creative work. An analysis of the survey responses indicates need for a variety of configurations, including efficiency/studio units, as well as units with one, two or three bedrooms. Other important features were also identified, including natural light, Internet access, high ceilings, additional storage and soundproofing.

Other key findings:

  • Olympia area artists and creative organizations have a strong need for spaces to live and work, including gallery/exhibition space and classroom spaces.
  • 54 organizations and businesses are interested in locating in a multi-use creative facility in Olympia.
  • Interested artists are active in a variety of art forms, including sculpture, fiber/textile arts, fine crafts, graphic arts/design, painting/drawing, writing, and theater.
  • Downtown Olympia ranked as the area of highest interest, with strong interest in public transportation. Most need one parking space.

The survey was conducted by Artspace Projects, Inc. and Swan Research and Consulting, and was supported by The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, Thurston County Chamber, Economic Development Council of Thurston County, Olympia Downtown Association, Freas Foundation, and ArtsWA/the Washington State Arts Commission.

Artspace Projects, Inc., is a national leader in the field of developing affordable space that meets the needs of artists through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and new construction.

The report provides data “to assist project partners in the exploration and creation of affordable new space where artists working in all creative and artistic disciplines may live, work, and pursue their art, as well as spaces where arts, cultural and creative organizations and businesses can thrive.”

With the survey findings in hand, the Olympia Artspace Alliance is now identifying potential funding sources, and strengthening partnerships in the public and private sector. No site has been identified for the prospective project.

August 2013: We are working toward our goal

TomAnderson_3406We are moving forward with our plans to bring below market studio/residential housing for artists to Olympia.  We are committed to working with local artists, businesses, our colleges and universities, and local residents interested in strengthening and stabilizing our creative community. Thanks to successful fundraising, we are making steady progress.

We have contracted with Artspace Projects, Inc. (API) to conduct two surveys:  one of artists and the other of arts organizations.  We are working now to finalize the survey questions and contact information/mailing lists. (If you are interested in participating in the Survey, please send us your contact information using this form.)

We have contracted with Qvigstad and Associates, Inc. to be our survey coordinator. Kari Qvigstad has been invaluable in working with API and the board in preparing the many details and gathering the data necessary to launch a successful survey this fall.  With the generous support of the Thurston County Economic Development Council (EDC) and Saint Martin’s University, we have found an intern for the survey period, Hang Nguyen, who is working with Kari in the EDC’s office.TomAnderson_3612

We are also preparing a survey launch event for Wednesday, October 9th at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.  This will kick off the start of the survey process and help us reach everyone, artists and organizations, whose responses we need. We hope this event will be a celebration of the arts for all who will participate in the surveys.

Our board member, Jean Mandeberg, has been in contact with faculty and administrators at The Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University, and South Puget Sound Community College, and she will continue to do so, especially once we have survey information to share.  These two surveys, for individual artists and arts organizations, will give us all a wealth of information as we move forward.  We are extremely lucky to have three institutions of higher learning in our area, and one of our main goals is to be able design a facility that can take advantage of this incredible asset to our community.

TomAnderson_2769As you see, we have had a great beginning but there is so much work to be done.  We thank you for your support!

Ron Hinton is President of the Olympia Artspace Alliance Board.

Thank you to Tom Anderson for these photographs!

Olympia Artspace Alliance launches Artist Survey

It’s been 3 years since the “Preliminary Feasibility Report” produced by Artspace Projects, Inc. for the City of Olympia to assess possibilities for building an artist live/work space in Olympia. At the Spring ArtsWalk, the Board will begin to gather names of artists who would like ot participate in the Artist Survey for this project, to take place in the
Fall 2013.

TomPosterWe’ll have a table in the Washington Center for the Performing Arts on Friday evening, during ArtsWalk (April 26th). Please drop by to learn more!

Come help us begin to form a stronger Community for Artists and a stronger economy for Olympia.


(Poster by Tom Anderson)