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    Arts developer eyes Roanoke for first Virginia project

    By Mike Allen,


    The nonprofit agency Artspace Projects Inc. has for 45 years made it its mission to establish living and working spaces for artists at low-cost rental rates. Based in Minneapolis, Artspace has 58 ongoing projects in 24 states, from rural Colorado to New York City.

    Several hundred people turned out Thursday evening at Riverdale in Southeast Roanoke — the former home of the sprawling American Viscose plant, under redevelopment for business, manufacturing and community uses — to find out if Roanoke might be the site of Artspace’s 59 th project.

    The answer was a definite maybe, with everyone involved expressing their eagerness to get to yes.

    “We’ve been over the past couple of hours meeting with a number of folks from the city, from lending organizations, to figure out how to keep moving a project forward,” Artspace consulting manager Kelli Miles told the assembled crowd.
    The former American Viscose plant in Roanoke. Photo by Dwayne Yancey.

    “As you can imagine, we would not be here if there wasn’t an enormous interest in having Artspace come to Roanoke,” said developer Ed Walker, who invited Artspace to consider the Star City  — and Riverdale in particular  — for one of its projects.

    “We are very intentionally in Roanoke using the arts to create the community we want to live in, and this is all part of that,” said Doug Jackson, the city’s arts and culture coordinator.

    Starting in summer 2023, Artspace conducted a feasibility study, and results were shared during a windblown event beneath a tent on Riverdale’s south side. Artspace staff expressed especial delight at the 815 respondents to their study survey, a level of participation — and enthusiastic expression of interest in creative spaces — that was higher per capita than many larger communities the nonprofit has engaged.

    Next, Artspace conducted an arts market study, the results of which will become available by early May. “It’s actually very rare that communities go right from doing a feasibility study with us into an arts market study,” Miles said. “Usually there’s some time in between and they’ve got to find the funds and find the interest and try to keep the momentum going. We went straight into it here and I think that’s just a testament to this community and the desire for this.”

    Greg Handberg, Artspace’s senior vice president of properties, told the audience that should the best-case scenario come to pass, and construction goes forward, “the most aggressive timeline I think possibly would be a start for construction in early 2026 with a completion in the first half of 2027.”

    Though no site has officially been chosen, Artspace is focusing on three buildings within the Riverdale complex that staff consider well-suited, Handberg said.

    As work continues toward making this dream reality, funding is the key. Miles said that Artspace will pursue historic tax credits and low-income housing tax credits. “In Artspace’s history, there’s never been an instance where we have been awarded the tax credit allocation and not moved forward.”

    Walker has been interested in bringing Artspace to Roanoke for at least two decades. “They are the best real estate developer to the arts, probably, in the world, and the fact that they are impressed and that they recognize and see Roanoke and this region for what it is, is inspiring to me,” he said.

    The post Arts developer eyes Roanoke for first Virginia project appeared first on Cardinal News .

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