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Last week I spoke, along with the Mayor and other officials, at the groundbreaking of 12th Avenue Arts, a new project being constructed by Capitol Hill Housing near the corner of 12th Ave and Pine Street.
Over 200 attendees crammed into Velocity Dance Center to celebrate this unique development combining affordable housing, arts, and public safety.
What was once a fenced-off 29,000 square foot parking lot will soon be transformed into 88 apartments for people earning 60% or less of the area’s median income; two performance theaters managed by New Century Theatre Company, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, and Washington Ensemble Theatre; meeting space for community events; below-grade parking for the nearby Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct; and street-level space for local restaurants and retailers.
Interestingly, the last Seattle development to combine apartments with a significant performance space was the Paramount Theatre in 1928. It’s taken us 85 years to reinvent the past.
12th Ave Arts is an example of what CODAC advocated for in 2009. Then, with the number of lost arts spaces increasing, I initiated the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee with the help of Councilmember Sally Clark. The committee delivered recommendations to the Council and Mayor addressing the loss of arts and cultural space and associated economic activity. Acting on their recommendations was stalled until last year, when I sponsored budget legislation addressing one of their top two priority recommendations: to hire a cultural development manager.
The manager’s duties include identifying culturally significant land uses; preserving the cultural amenities that make neighborhoods desirable; educating citizens, property owners, and developers on the importance of the arts and cultural community to property values and neighborhood character; and promoting tools and incentives for retaining arts and cultural spaces as well as developing new ones.
CODAC’s other top priority was to designate an arts district. A few weeks ago, I blogged about Capitol Hill’s Pike-Pine corridor’s selection by ArtPlace as one of 2013’s top twelve places in the country for art. I consider ArtPlace’s designation more evidence of Capitol Hill being a “cultural generator” neighborhood – a neighborhood that consistently contributes significant arts and culture-related economic and nightlife activity.
That’s why I intend to work this year with the City Council and Randy Engstrom, director of the City’s arts office, to act on CODAC’s recommendation of establishing arts districts, the first being Capitol Hill. In addition to protecting and promoting space for art, culture, and nightlife activities, one of the defining characteristics I want to see included is affordable artist work-force housing. Such a district model would need to include incentives and funding for the kind of affordable artist live-work housing found in Pioneer Square’s TK Lofts and in Rainier Valley’s Hiawatha Lofts.
I’ll be blogging more on this effort as it progresses, so please stay tuned.
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