A little more than a month ago, artists’ lofts in Hastings seemed a distant possibility. There was demand, but not enough money.
Then, all of a sudden, that changed. Key funding sources from the Dakota County Community Development Agency emerged in a matter of weeks, and the city started taking steps to commit land and sign off on the development.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Hastings Community Development Director John Hinzman. “The Dakota County CDA has been able to bring tremendous resources to the table for this project, to take a project that five weeks ago seemed very distant because of the funding gap to something that could really be a reality.”
The lofts are being developed by the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Artspace. The organization has built housing for artists nationwide, including nine developments in the Twin Cities metro.
In November 2014, Artspace released the results of a study commissioned by the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council (HPAAC) that showed demand for about three dozen new live/work units for artists.
But there was a daunting $750,000 price tag for predevelopment planning, and nothing in the city’s budget to pay for it.
There still isn’t money set aside in Hastings’ 2015 budget, but the plan is for the CDA to assume costs so the city doesn’t have to. Available funds include low-income tax credits, tax levy-funded HOPE Program dollars and a potential tax-increment financing district that the CDA would establish and manage in tandem with the city.
The city is facing a tight deadline to approve the project and secure funding. There’s a June 2 cutoff for low-income housing tax credits, and the CDA has set an April 15 deadline to allow enough time to complete the application.
Just as the funding arrived right when the city needed it, the development came up at just the right time for the CDA.
“At this time, we had not really seen much interest in the low-income housing tax credits for this year,” said Lisa Alfson, the CDA’s Director of Community and Economic Development. “So when we learned more about Artspace … it kind of came about that they were interested in a project, and we have available funding sources for such projects. We kind of got together and started talking more about those possibilities.”
The lofts will likely be located along the Mississippi riverfront, on a portion of a 2.75-acre area currently owned by the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority. Artspace expects to use about an acre for the lofts, leaving the rest for future development.
Hinzman said the city may sell the property to Artspace for market price — about $316,000 per acre — or for as little as $1, deducting the land value from the overall project cost.
The Hastings Renaissance
Hinzman said the development will fill multiple needs for the city, including an overall demand for housing in the downtown area. Though Artspace developments prioritize artist tenants, they’re open to anyone who meets low-income housing requirements.
“We’ve seen the effect that artists’ housing has had in many other cities, including Lowertown and areas of Minneapolis where it has had a tremendous effect on an area and a neighborhood,” he said.
The lofts would become part of Hastings’ growing arts community, as well as a piece of the long-awaited Riverfront Renaissance project.
Dick Graham, HPAAC’s board president, said he sees the two going hand-in-hand.
“The original Renaissance was about an explosion of ideas, and an awful lot of what has remained from that Renaissance started with the arts and the buildings, etc. etc.,” he said. “So I see that happening in Hastings.”