By Andrea Fox, EfficientGov Senior Editor
In El Paso, Texas, where an award-winning, 10-year old Smart Growth plan is receiving a lot of criticism for not producing the results expected, it seems that artists are giving proponents some hope that downtown can still be the attractive, walkable neighborhood that attracts talent and investment to the city.
“The artists are there. More than 400 local artists responded to a survey indicating their interest in an Artspace-style project providing access to permanently affordable, high quality space to live and work,” according to the national developer Artspace1.
In other parts of the country, developing residential and commercial space for artists has shown to be a sound investment and news generator.
Just a few years ago, artists in Lowell, Mass., were widely credited for the success of a difficult redevelopment project of a large mill complex2. The property owner showed his bank that by strategically leasing to artist tenants, his revenues were stable over 7 years. So the bank invested, and the result is Western Avenue Lofts—affordable living spaces for artists, many of which have studios one building over, at Western Avenue Studios. Lowell’s once blighted sections of old mills and factories are now helping the city make headlines that attract visitors and interest. “Lowell is a city of canals and culture,” the Boston Globe reported last year3.
In Maryland’s Prince George’s County, affordable housing for artists, art galleries, and performance centers are expected to improve neighborhoods and attract commercial investment, according to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “We look forward to attracting more investors to the Route 1 corridor so we can continue to flourish as one of Maryland’s core business communities,” said Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth4.
The key for community redevelopment, according to El Paso’s Smart Growth plan stakeholders, is working with smaller developers and entrepreneurs and not depending on attracting the big developers. Jason King, principal at Dover, Kohl & Partners, which helped develop the city’s Smart Growth plan“we see the green shoots of a trend heading in a new direction,” said when commenting on El Paso’s recent incremental progress.
To learn more about El Paso’s urban revitalization experience, see the original article.