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'Overwhelming Support' For Affordable Artist Housing In Downtown Mesa

(Courtesy Artspace)
A preliminary depiction of the Mesa Artspace Lofts.

Downtown Mesa is poised to see a lot of changes in the next few years. The city has a renewed focus on revitalizing its sleepy city center with a light rail expansion in the area and a new ASU campus in the works.

That growth is happening from inside out, according to Jennifer Gastelum with Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation in Mesa.

“The most important thing is…that it’s community driven, so that the community members and neighbors are actively involved in the process of development and then it’s really thoughtful,” Gastelum said. “So, it’s not development for the sake of it.”

Gastelum and David Crummey, a real estate specialist with Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO), are helping to create Mesa Artspace Lofts. The project is a collaboration with the City of Mesa, the Mesa Arts Center, NEDCO and Artspace, a national nonprofit that creates affordable housing for artists all over the country.  It’s being funded by JPMorgan Chase.

Crummey said there’s really strong support from the city, downtown business members, and artists all over the Valley to develop the lofts.

Artspace started by doing a survey to find out if a project like this would work in Mesa, and then Crummey said they went out and interviewed almost 700 artists throughout the Valley as a collaboration with a number of cities.

“We found there was overwhelming support for this type of housing,” he said. “Not just that artists needed this type of space in general, but artists needed this to survive and thrive.”

There will be an application process to determine who will live in the lofts, Crummey said. And, the definition of ‘artist’ that they will use is really broad.

“It’s not about the quality of work, but your commitment to the arts and to the community of other artists,” he said.

And, he said, that word ‘community’ is key in all of this.

“Artspace has 40 projects around the country, and every development, every community is different because it is all about the artists living and working together in proximity,” he said. “So that drummer living next to the visual artist, living next to a children’s book author, allows for creative and unknowable compilations to happen out of that.”

To Gastelum, it’s most important that projects like this came from the community.

“We’re doing it with (sic) intentionality. We’re being thoughtful about what we want our community to look like, and we’re being aware of what the community wants.”

We received several questions from our readers on Facebook and reporter Lauren Gilger has this update to the story:

Rents for the Mesa Artspace lofts will range from $471 a month for a one-bedroom space to $800 for three bedrooms, according to an Artspace representative.

Melodie Bahan, vice president of communications at Artspace, said that they use Low Income Housing Tax Credits for their projects. Eligibility for those credits is set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 60 percent of the Area Median Income, according to Bahan.

In Mesa, she said anyone making between 40 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income will be eligible to apply to live in the units.

About six months before the construction of the lofts is complete, there will be a series of artist workshops to overview the application process and outline who can apply, according to David Crummey with Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation in Mesa.

Crummey said they are planning to break ground on the project in the first quarter of 2017, and it should be complete about a year later.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.