The scene at Flashpoint art space in Penn Quarter at 7:45 this morning was a flashback - hopeful denizens waiting in line for the newest housing offering. The scene was not, however, a replay of the condo frenzy of 2005, but a new subsidized housing venue aimed at struggling area artists. Eleven eager applicants waited in line for one of 30 units designated as "artist housing" in the new Loree Grand nearing completion in NoMa, the first phase of Union Place, a new 212-unit apartment building at 250 K St., NE.
The benefaction comes from a partnership between developer Cohen Companies and the Cultural Development Corporation (CuDC), encouraging "artists, arts administrators, and arts educators" with dedicated subsidized rental apartments. The CuDC began accepting applications today and will continue through May 24th.
So who's an "artist?" To screen the uncreative, an independent panel of arts professionals will review three artistic competencies: demonstrated body of work and commitment to an artistic practice, active ongoing participation in the arts industry and potential for an affordable live-work unit to positively impact an artistic career. Commercially successful artists need not apply, as the unit allotments are based on need. But don't picture starving sidewalk caricaturists in tie-dyes; in DC "struggling" is a relative term.
The CuDC is looking for painters, filmmakers, graphic designers, even "arts administrators"and educators, with incomes based on the DC Department of Housing and Community Development's income limits. That puts income minimums at $34,958 (have IRS forms in hand) for a studio and income maximums at $82,160 for the largest two-bedroom apartments.
Cohen purchased the land for just over $1 million and has spent $45 million on construction costs with ADC Builders and GTM Architects, the general contractor and architect, respectively. The 10-story Loree Grand - one of the few multi-family buildings underway immediately east of the railroad tracks, will also offer 3,700 s.f. of retail space, which Eric Siegel, Executive VP at Cohen, says he hopes to fill with a food-wine-coffee shop along the lines of Tryst in Adams Morgan or Busboys and Poets. No retail tenants have yet committed, and Siegel dismissed rumors of a hot yoga studio.
First-in-line Lisa Simmons camped in her Mini for the night to ensure her place in line (pictured at right). The DC native is a short-film maker whose focus is "urban dance in urban spaces." The self-professed nomad now floats between her mother's and boyfriend's places and leapt (well, slept) at the chance to be surrounded by other artists close to Union Station's transit options.
Painter Matthew Mann heard about the housing through CuDC's Red Circle, which brings together artists and business leaders. Mann was in line so early for the appeal of "affordable space" that "wasn't derelict."
Julia Suszynski and Katherine VanWyk, interns with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, are hoping for a new apartment when their subsidized intern housing runs out. Both heard about the housing through their current work and Suszynski said she thinks artist housing "is an interesting way to segment people." Both hope to qualify as arts administrators.
Emma Fisher, Communications Manager with CuDC, said she was happy with the early turn out and expected more applicants throughout the day. Units should be ready for move-in by June. Rentals run from $999 to $1330 for a studio, and up to $1657 for a two-bedroom.
Correction: The income guidelines quoted above are determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, not by the District government.
Shaun Courtney contributed to this story. Washington, DC real estate development news