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Artspace visits Hastings, conducts feasibility study

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The door has been opened for a new art-centered development in Hastings. Last week, representatives from Artspace, a non-profit arts development organization, came to Hastings to look at several properties that could potentially be renovated into usable art and artists' space.

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Artspace was brought to Hastings by the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council (HPAAC) to explore an alternative, art-centered use for the former Hudson building in downtown Hastings. Further discussions widened the scope; last week's feasibility study included not only the old Hudson building, but also other potential redevelopment sites around the city, including the old armory, the Chamber of Commerce building and Guardian Angels.

"There's more than just the Hudson Sprayer building," said Wendy Holmes, Senior Vice President for Consulting and Strategic Partnerships for Artspace.

Besides the tour of the city and possible redevelopment sites, Artspace met with about 50 Hastings artists to discuss their needs and the relationship Hastings has with the arts. They also held a public meeting Wednesday evening to talk about the work they do, answer questions and get an idea of what people here are looking for.

What they do

Artspace was founded in 1979 in Minneapolis and has been involved in development projects since 1989. They serve as a developer, manager and owner of spaces dedicated to the arts and have 32 facilities across the country. Most of their facilities are mixed use structures. They include things like live/work space - artists apartments that include an extra 150 square feet or so to be used as a studio or work area; performance and rehearsal space; workshops or studios; coffee shops or cafes; or whatever it is a city's art community needs.

Artspace is responsible for projects like the Northern and Tilsner Warehouses in St. Paul, the Hennepin Center for the Arts in Minneapolis and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, just to name a few.

Artspace developments are set up to be self-sustaining, and one of the organization's goals, Holmes said, is to never have to go back to a community for help supporting a facility once it's open.

"Everything they've done pays for itself," said HPAAC president Dick Graham.

At the same time, Artspace works to provide space that's affordable and sustainable for artists. Funding for their projects comes from a mix of sources, including public and private funds. Collaborative support is what makes the projects successful, Holmes said.

So far, Artspace has an impressive record when it comes to project sustainability. While some projects have had some hard times, none of them have failed, Holmes said, and every facility with artists work/live space they've opened has had a waiting list.

Not only that, but Artspace facilities seem to encourage economic growth nearby. In other cities, Holmes said that their projects have increased the property values of other properties in the area, and other businesses often spring up around the arts development.

"Arts can have a powerful impact on a community," Holmes said.

In Hastings

Last Wednesday and Thursday, Artspace conducted a feasibility study for a project in Hastings. The results of that study are expected to come back in four to six weeks. At that point, the next step would be to order a market study that would tell exactly how much demand there is for art spaces in Hastings and what kind of space Hastings needs, whether it's work/live space, performance space, gallery space or something else. That study would cost $30,000. If Artspace decides to take on a development project here, Holmes said it would likely take two to four years before it was completed.

Artspace does about 12 to 15 feasibility studies each year. Of those, it's usually about two or three that become full-fledged redevelopment projects.

When asked how much residential space the old Hudson building could accommodate, Holmes estimated about 60 units would fill the entire available space, although she said she wouldn't advise turning the entire building into live/work spaces. The building has about 80,000 square feet of usable space.

HPAAC has taken the lead in bringing Artspace to Hastings. The feasibility study was paid for out of HPAAC funds raised by that organization's gala event. For more information about HPAAC, go to http://hpaac.org. For more about Artspace, go to www.artspace.org.

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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