National nonprofit gives initial OK for affordable artist housing development in Ann Arbor or Ypsi

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have been deemed viable for an artist-oriented affordable housing development, according to a preliminary feasibility study conducted by Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer.

Since its inception over 30 years ago, Artspace has developed 58 properties designed to support community art and artists through live/work artist housing, studios, art centers, and arts-friendly businesses. Locally, those include Dearborn's City Hall Artspace Lofts, a mixed-use arts campus that provides affordable housing and studio space to community members.
Artspace worked in close collaboration with Washtenaw County community leaders to put together a "core group" to produce the report, says Lisa Sauvé, planning commissioner with the city of Ann Arbor as well as a member and organizer of the core group.
The report made recommendations based on its analysis of community need for affordable housing for artists and other creatives, community consensus for such need, and funding opportunities.
"The feasibility report established that the creative community is broad and far-reaching," Sauvé says.
While originally the core group focused on Ann Arbor alone, the report states that Ann Arbor's "porous borders with Ypsilanti" prompted the core group to expand its original concept.
"Individual artists may not identify or see their work only in one city," Sauvé says.
Combining resources will allow Washtenaw County-area artists to "pull those creative resources into a focused center that everybody can tap into," she adds.
The feasibility report has been a long time coming. Artspace first visited Washtenaw County in February 2022 to assess interest in an artist-oriented development. Next steps will involve an Arts Market Study to determine overall demand for mixed living/working space.
Sauvé says this step will also mean a deeper dive into real estate development, specific grants and financial incentives, and construction costs. She emphasizes that "this project is catered specifically to the community."
"That's why we want to continue to make it really public and accessible for conversation," she says. "It's really built by the community for the community."

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photo by Lisa Sauvé.
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