Mayor & Council: Develop Warehouses for Arts & Downtown Revitalizationby Ben McNitt on Aug. 05, 2009, under arts
THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL THIS AFTERNOON UNANIMOUSLY OKAYED the first step in a series of land-swaps and leases to breathe life into plans to convert downtown warehouses into affordable living and working space for artists and in the process make the district a destination for citizens and tourists alike seeking entertainment, dining and fun.
“It’s a good move,” said Warehouse Arts Management District (WAMO) President Marvin Shaver. “This is saving some important buildings and moving toward realizing the vision of the 2004 arts district master plan.”
WAMO will bid to acquire the buildings on the land the city will receive in a land swap with the state. Other bidders are possible, too.
The bottom line here is that within a year the long abandoned Steinfeld Warehouse at 101 E. 6th St. could begin a new life as artist’s residence, workshops and galleries. Done right, it could be the keystone of an economically vibrant and attractive arts district to give a core identity to the city’s long neglected downtown.
Council members at today’s study session where the first steps were approved seemed keen to assure that it be done right. Vice Mayor Regina Romero and council members Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich spoke about performance deadlines in any final deal and provisions to ensure development is consistent with the arts district master plan.
“This is really pretty wonderful,” said council member Steve Leal, “because it writes artists into the district’s development using the powerful principle of affordability.”
The plan would keep all the land in the city’s possession and provide that all costs for code upgrades and improvements be paid by the entity that wins a bid to acquire the buildings.
Here are the details in brief: the city will acquire Steinfeld’s and “the Toole shed” properties at 191 and 197 E. Toole from the Arizona Department of Transportation in exchange for city-owned property. Within a projected 60 days, the city will prepare Requests for Qualifications and Proposals for long term leases to upgrade and develop the buildings. Once a bid is awarded, work will begin.
Shaver said that if WAMO wins the bid he’d expect some initial occupancy at the Steinfeld Warehouse within a year and completion within three years.
This blog will keep you posted as the plan progresses, but suffice it to say today was a milestone in shifting downtown revitalization into gear.
Full disclosure: I volunteer on WAMO’s communications team.