Now’s Your Chance to Give Input on Affordable Housing for “Creatives” in EL

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Courtesy of Artspace

Artspace has developed live-work space for artists in Dearborn's former City Hall.

The nonprofit consultant hired to articulate the potential for constructing affordable live-work space for artists in East Lansing is coming to town next week, and now is your chance to have your ideas heard.

East Lansing’s City Council and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) teamed up earlier this year to direct $30,000 in local tax revenue to pay Minneapolis-based Artspace to conduct a feasibility study on developing a dedicated real estate project here. Artspace’s “mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable and sustainable space for artists and arts and cultural organizations,” and the organization acts as a real estate developer and operator for this kind of live-work affordable housing.

According to an email sent out by Adam Cummins, the City’s Community and Economic Development Administrator, Artspace representatives will be in town next week, Sept. 14-16, “to look at the space needs of artists and arts organizations plus the challenges and opportunities.”

Cummins noted that “The public can provide feedback at a community information session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Patriarche Park,” off Alton Road. The goal is to have area residents “provide feedback for a potential housing/workspace project that would target artists and other creatives.”

“The consultants want to hear community members’ thoughts regarding the type of attainable housing, work spaces and facilities needed to build a thriving arts scene,” according to Cummins.

The meeting is open to the public and you do not need to register to attend the event, but note that there is some chance the City will decide to move the event to a virtual space because of Covid concerns.

In advance of the consultants’ site visit, various members of the East Lansing community have been meeting online and in person to converse and prepare, including Cummins, Peter Dewan (former DDA Chair), Elinor Holbrook (real estate professional and community advocate), Mayor Jessy Gregg (who holds a bachelor’s in Fine Arts and identifies as a creative), Wendy Sylvester-Rowan (art educator and Chair of the East Lansing Arts Commission), Ji Hyun Kim (professional violinist and member of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra), Joy Rowland (professional double bassist and music educator), Rodney Whitaker (MSU University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz Studies), Sean Holland (Director of Transformational Leadership with One Love Global), and Meegan Holland (communications expert who has worked in government and the real estate field).

In addition to having many representatives from the string section, the group invited by Dewan to meet at Newman Lofts in July included two people running for City Council in November: Dan Bollman (architect and Chair of East Lansing’s Planning Commission) and Chuck Grigsby (founder of G Unity Worldwide and Chair of East Lansing’s Human Rights Commission).

The July event was hosted by Jaqueline Babcock, a member of the DDA and resident of Newman Lofts. According to notes provided by Sylvester-Rowan to the group, the July meeting included discussion of “identifying community needs, housing challenges, support for young artists, access to affordable housing, diversity, cultural and art offerings available to East Lansing residents, and any initiatives that will truly make East Lansing the ‘City of the Arts.’”

The notes indicated that “Artspace will look at possible development sites throughout the entire community,” and that “Some conversation included ideas about Hannah Community Center, [the] Bailey Neighborhood, Albert Avenue parcels, City parking lots, [the DDA’s] Evergreen properties, Trowbridge Avenue parcels, Oakwood neighborhood among other locations.”

Courtesy of Artspace

An apartment in Dearborn’s Artspace Lofts, formerly the City Hall of Dearborn, Michigan.

Whether or not you can attend the event on Sept. 15, you can mail in your ideas to a special email address created by the City: artspace@cityofeastlansing.com. (If you want City Council to also see your message, then copy council@cityofeastlansing.com.)

According to information provided by the City to ELi, messages sent to the artspace@cityofeastlansing.com email account will automatically forward to Cummins, Bollman, Gregg, Holland, and Sylvester-Rowan.

The City is planning to hold a joint meeting of the Housing Commission and Planning Commission, probably on Sept. 22, to discuss the Housing Study produced by a different external consultant. You can read more about Artspace in this ELi report from March, and you can read about the Housing Study in this ELi report from April

Correction: The original version of this story indicated that Jaqueline Babcock was a member of what is being called the “Artspace Core Group.” A member of the group wrote to tell us she only hosted the meeting at Newman Lofts and is not a member of the group, so that has been corrected.

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