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.

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