Jackson Flats 1843 NE. Jackson St., Minneapolis

Type: Artists' live-work housing. Units: 35 Size: 63,000 square feet Cost: $9.3 million Developers: Artspace Projects Inc. and the Northeast Community Development Corp. Architect: UrbanWorks

Jackson Flats, a long-planned artists' housing project in northeast Minneapolis, is getting a major boost.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission gave the thumbs-up Monday for the project's site plan and some variances to front-yard and parking lot requirements. A conditional permit was also approved. Developers say these moves will help in their pursuit of funding the unique, four-story structure.

Artspace, which creates and preserves affordable housing for artists, stepped into the project last year after failed earlier efforts to create affordable condo units on the blighted corner of Jackson Street and 18 1/2 Avenue NE. The Northeast Community Development Corp. had abandoned the plans as the for-sale market evaporated with the financial crisis.

Now Artspace and the Northeast CDC are working together on a revived proposal that envisions rental housing for artists making 60 percent or less of the area's median income, with larger-than-usual units, oversized doors, ceiling heights of up to 12 feet, concrete floors and industrial-strength plumbing fixtures.

Also part of the project is a 2,000-square-foot art gallery and flexible community space, for use with the distance learning programs of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

The city approvals mean that the project will remain competitive as Artspace and the community group pursue coveted low-income housing construction assistance, said Andrew Commers, director of property development for Artspace.

"Having the city approvals means there's more cost-certainty -- potential funders know the architectural plans we have now are the ones that will be used," he said.

Projects closer to readiness tend to be looked on more favorably by the state and local governments that hand out tax credits and other assistance for low-income housing, and that could come in handy in the coming year.

Should the funding come together, Commers said, construction could begin by late next year with an early 2013 opening.

Don Jacobson, a freelance writer based in St. Paul, can be contacted at hotproperty.startribune@gmail.com.