You might have heard earlier this year that affordable housing non-profit Artspace is coming to Mesa. The Minneapolis-based organization is set to build the Mesa Artspace Lofts at 155 S. Hibbert Road in downtown Mesa. There will be 50 units where artists can live and work, with floor plans ranging from single-room studios to three-bedroom homes.
Groundbreaking is set to take place early next year, but for interested potential tenants there is an informational meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Lecture Hall, at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Heidi Zimmer is the senior vice president of property development at Artspace.
“We are the nation’s largest real estate developer for the arts,” she said. “We have been in business for over 30 years.”
The core of their work, Zimmer said, is creating affordable live/work rental housing for artists and their families. Founded in 1979, Artspace usually renovates old buildings, but in certain cases, like Mesa, they will build new housing from the ground up. The organization’s mission, as listed on its website, is “to create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and art organizations.”
Zimmer said that the Mesa Artspace Lofts won’t only be apartments.
“It will also have community space and commercial space along the ground floor, and a lot of public and open space, as well, for events and festivals and activities.”
Mesa’s assistant director of arts and culture, Robert Schultz said getting the Artspace project was a collaborative effort between the Mesa Art Center, Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) and the city of Mesa.
The original idea to bring the affordable artist housing to the city was in 2012 and since then, the city and Artspace have been working out all the details including designing the blueprints and obtaining the required building permits.
“Artspace does have a fairly long and involved process for looking at the communities they’re considering,” Schultz said.
Artspace’s Zimmer agreed and said they are not a typical developer.
“We come to a community at the invitation of the community,” she said.
At Mesa’s invitation, they began testing the “arts temperature” to see if the city would be a good spot for Artspace’s affordable housing project. Zimmer said they looked to see what the artistic climate in Mesa was like and if there would be support for Artspace.
“Everyone was overwhelmingly supportive,” Zimmer said.
Schultz said Mesa has a lot going for it when it comes to the arts. Both Mayor John Giles and the City Council were very supportive of the Artspace idea. He also said with both the Mesa Art Center and the light rail right in the heart of downtown it worked in the city’s favor to attract Artspace.
Aside from creating affordable housing, Schultz said having 50 artists living downtown is a wonderful benefit for the city.
“There’s all kinds of opportunities for collaborations,” he said.
It will give Mesa a creative boost.
“Beyond that, there are other entities that these artists can work with and affect. Benedictine University is just up the street from there, Mesa Community College, even ASU,” he said.
The Mesa Artspace Lofts will be the first Artspace project in Arizona. Find out more by visiting Artspace.org or attending the Dec. 8 informational meeting at the Mesa Arts Center.
– In addition to reporting for MyNewsMesa.com, Mesa resident Kaely Monahan anchors and reports for KTAR News.