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Tucson may create fund to help artists



City Councilman Steve Leal wants to create a dedicated fund to help artists in the Warehouse Arts District as building issues and potential evictions come into play.

Leal and Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, meeting Thursday as the council’s Rio Nuevo subcommittee, asked Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko to determine in the next month how much money is needed for such a fund.

Leal envisions using the fund to help keep artists in warehouses as they are repaired and help artists relocate if the Arizona Department of Transportation decides to evict artists from more warehouses, as the state has done at the Steinfeld and Zee’s warehouses.

Artists have a March 31 deadline to vacate those warehouses, but they are trying to delay the eviction or even have it canceled.

Leal and Trasoff agreed to sign an artist’s letter to the state agency supporting artists’ desires for a delay.

David Aguirre, a primary lease holder at the Steinfeld warehouse, said Tucson structural engineer Jerry Cannon last week issued a report saying the structural deficiencies in the warehouse could be repaired without emptying the building.

The state agency, which owns 29 downtown warehouses including Steinfeld, 101 W. Sixth St., and Zee’s, 1 E. Toole Ave., wants to sell the warehouses without tenants. The state cites structural deficiencies in both buildings as a reason to evict tenants.

Aguirre said he has identified three locations where Steinfeld artists could relocate, but he and the others would like to remain at Steinfeld. The city has committed to help pay for a relocation but has not identified where in the city budget the money would come from.

“I’m interested in us having some amount of money – I’m not sure what that is – so we have the ability and latitude to act quickly if another of these (evictions) happens,” Leal said. “I’m not asking for $20 million. I’m not sure if it should be $2 million or $3 million.”

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