Ann Arbor Area Well-Positioned to Pursue an Affordable Live/Work Mixed-Use Facility for Artists and Creatives

April 1, 2023 News

A recent study conducted by Artspace, America’s leading nonprofit real estate developer of living spaces for artists and their businesses, has shed light on the potential for a new live/work mixed-use space for artists and creatives in Washtenaw County. At the invitation of local community leaders, and with financial support from the Song Foundation, Artspace conducted a Preliminary Feasibility Study to determine the viability of an affordable arts development project within the greater Ann Arbor area. The study, which demonstrates broad interest in a new facility, included multiple focus groups with a diverse array of creative practitioners living within Washtenaw County.

Artspace Consulting’s Senior Vice President Wendy Holmes and Director Aneesha Marwah worked closely with a Core Group of local cross-sector leaders throughout the study. The Core Group, well-equipped by position, experience, and influence, cultivated community engagement and provided county-specific insight. Through virtual focus groups, a public meeting, and an in-person Preliminary Feasibility Visit, the study engaged several subpopulations of communities and analyzed project factors. The focus groups targeted individual artists, arts organizations, civic/finance leaders, and BIPOC community members.

Ann Arbor has long been known for its rich arts and cultural ecosystem, earning recognition as one of the top 10 most arts-vibrant medium-sized cities in the nation on SMU DataArts’ 2022 Arts Vibrancy Index Report. SMU uses a data-driven approach that analyzes the number of arts and culture organizations and employees, as well as public support for arts and culture. However, due to the increasing cost of living and limited supply of housing, many artists, musicians, and other creatives have been leaving the region over the past two decades. Hence, the feasibility study serves as the first step towards finding a solution to providing affordable and equitable housing for creatives.

Building upon the positive findings of the Preliminary Feasibility Study, the Core Working Group is now actively exploring next steps towards the development of an Artspace project in the greater Ann Arbor area. In particular, the Group is considering an Arts Market Study – the second step in the process – to further assess the viability and potential of the project.

The Arts Market Study will engage a diverse and inclusive group of creatives, with the goal of determining the overall demand for arts and creative spaces. By identifying the specific types of spaces, amenities, and features that artists want and need, the study will inform critical decisions related to site selection, design, and programming.

Through this comprehensive and data-driven approach, the Core Working Group aims to create a vibrant and sustainable live/work community that meets the unique needs and aspirations of the local arts community. By fostering an environment that supports creativity, innovation, and collaboration, the project promises to enhance the cultural landscape of the region and contribute to its long-term economic vitality.