Our December question from ArtPlace was recently responded to. Check out our response below (and our new website welcometocollinwood.com)
What has been the thorniest issue you've faced to date? How have you dealt with it?
Brian: The thorniest issue we have been facing is getting additional site control while also managing increased interest from for-profit developers. Northeast Shores acts as a developer of last resort, rehabilitating abandoned housing and acquiring parcels of vacant land for new construction. Our mission is to provide artists and other potential residents with affordable rental units, the opportunity to own their own homes, and an avenue to contribute to an increased level of neighborhood investment, pride and stability. We’re the lead provider of housing in North Shore Collinwood and we’ve successfully worked with a wide range of individuals from first-time homebuyers to empty nesters. Over the last 10 years, our activities have resulted in over $42 million in neighborhood investment. Northeast Shores has substantially rehabbed over 125 existing homes and built over 60 new homes in our 15 year existence. As a result of our success, we’ve been introduced to another issue. Because artists are at the core of our marketing efforts, they have historically made up a significant portion of our home buyers. Over the past few years, however, general demand for our homes has substantially increased. Qualified non-artists are increasingly expressing interest in our homes. The supply of vacant houses on which we work is staying relatively small, while demand is increasing.
Because of this, it is becoming more difficult to make sure artists are having access to this opportunity. Similarly, demands for commercial spaces in our neighborhood have increased significantly, particularly in our Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District. Artists are now seeking a shrinking supply of commercial space opposite other potential tenants and owners, including a number of restaurant tenants seeking to open in 2013 such as Alan Glazen’s Project Light Switch. The remaining commercial vacancies are often the ones that require the greatest degree of rehab investment, with many requiring major improvements to electrical, plumbing as well as heating and cooling systems. To justify the costs of these expenditures, Northeast Shores needs tenants and owners with robust, sustainable business plans. The non-commercial nature of many artists’ work means that it can be more difficult to provide them ownership opportunities.
Despite these challenges and our current endeavors in the neighborhood, we are continuously planning for the community's future. Northeast Shores remains more committed than ever to providing artists with pathways to space ownership. We’ve launched a $150,000 small loan pool to help artists finance art space that’s not traditionally easy to finance through residential and commercial mortgages. We’ve also launched a $125,000 grant program that provides artists with funds to support their community art projects, both as a way to address community priorities through the arts and as a way to provide artists with a direct revenue stream for the work that they want to do. Through ArtPlace’s investment, we’re able to justify holding a number of properties that we are developing specifically for artists.