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Artspace design focuses on the work in artwork

There are plenty of people eager to see work begin on the new Artspace project, which is scheduled to begin later this summer in downtown Hastings. But perhaps none are so eager as those who have been working behind the scenes to make sure the new structure does just what it’s intended to.

Artspace is a Minnesota nonprofit real estate developer focused on making sure artists have affordable places to live that also provide the space and features to accommodate a home studio. Their project in Hastings, called the Artspace Hastings River Lofts, will create a mixed use structure with 37 live/work units, some commercial space and an art gallery on the east end of downtown Hastings.

When Artspace started developing property for artists back in the 1980s and 1990s, most of its projects were all about redevelopment – repurposing an existing, usually older, building to fit the residential and working needs of artists.

Historic construction has worked particularly well for the Artspace vision. David Miller of UrbanWorks Architecture, the firm designing the site, said that historic buildings are known for their high ceilings and high windows that allow abundant natural light indoors. Both features are key for artists.

Lately, though, Artspace projects have been roughly half redevelopment and half new construction, said project manager Becky Carlson St. Clair.

“It really comes down to what’s available, what’s going on in the city,” she said.

The Hastings project falls in the new construction category; that means that the architects have had to be mindful of those particular artistic needs when it comes to designing the space.

Those key historic features – high ceilings and high windows – were key elements that the architects knew they would need to work into the design.

“When we’re doing a ground-up building, that’s one of the things we look at providing,” Miller said, “... so even though it’s a new building, you have more daylight than you might expect.”

Another consideration is the nature of artistic use. Some arts create a little extra wear and tear on a building, so designers worked to make sure building materials were resilient enough to hold up.

That’s a priority for all Artspace projects, Carlson St. Clair said, whether they’re dealing with a new structure or repurposing an old one. Materials like laminate countertops, vinyl flooring in new construction or concrete or wood floors in historic projects are simple, durable and cost efficient to keep the units affordable. There’s no carpet, unless mandated by a higher authority.

Carlson St. Clair noted that space is another unusual consideration. Artspace’s live/work units are bigger than the average apartment and have open floor plans, the idea being that artists who live there will be able to also work there.

According to current designs, the smallest unit, a studio apartment, will measure in at 670 square feet. The biggest, a three-bedroom, will be 1,340 square feet.

Being able to work at home is particularly important for artists, she explained. Creating art often requires extra space beyond what a typical apartment offers, leaving artists seeking studio space outside the home and at extra cost. For artists who may not be able to support themselves on art alone, or who work on their art in their spare time, paying for studio space isn’t always feasible. Artspace hopes to make studio space and cost a non-issue.

“We’re hoping somebody will be able to work within their unit,” she said.

The design considers other issues artists face, like something as simple as the sinks. Carlson St. Clair said units usually have their own single basin sinks with goose-neck faucets to accommodate buckets. And, on each floor, there are cleanup stations that, while primarily for janitorial use, are open to residents also.

The art gallery is one of the biggest features for art, so residents can host art shows, events or performances in their own building.

Beyond artists needs, the design also works for residents’ health and wellbeing, Miller said. There’s more daylight in common spaces and units, with large windows that open to the courtyard in open spaces and at the ends of hallways to give views of nature and connect the indoors to the outdoor spaces.

Building materials, beyond being resilient, are selected for low VOC content, and efficiency is a key consideration in utility systems. That’s part of the Artspace effort to include “green community” features, Carlson St. Clair said. It’s a concept that similar to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), but tuned for more affordable housing projects.

Construction update

Plans still call for a late summer or early fall start to construction on the new building, Carlson St. Clair said. Construction will last about one year, and Artspace is anticipating units will be available for lease toward the end of next summer, in 2017.

Three-dimensional models of the units will be available later on in the process. Applications won’t be accepted until a few months before construction is finished. Information sessions will be scheduled prior to the application period.

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