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Q&A: Wendy Holmes on Artspace

Q: What will the interior and exterior space finally look like?

A: Our team here at Artspace led by project manager Will Law, and the project architect, Hamilton Houston Lownie, put together what is a pretty interesting space use for each unit in the rehab. It does a good job of staying true to what I think is a larger Artspace aesthetic that we've learned over the years and is more preferred by artists -- we leave a fair amount of the original material of the building for the artists to get a feel of its history. This loft aesthetic has grown more popular over the years but was very new in the beginning years of our work. There are also creative and interesting touches for the artists; hallways that are not necessarily one, long straight corridor but have a lot of nooks for residents to hang art, free-standing pillars, a large lobby on each floor for the residents of that floor to choose the type of art they'd like to hang. The six new buildings were designed with the idea of bridging the commercial six-story rehab building with an entirely residential neighborhood of single-family homes.

Q: What is the application process for potential residents?

A: Applicants will have to go through a two-stage process. First relates to affordable-housing project eligibility. The Department of Housing and Urban Development sets standards for the area in which this project is located, and gives us guidelines for how much a tenant in each unit can make. The ranges and unit rents can be viewed in more detail on the project's Web site, www.artspacebuffalo.org.

Then artists will go before what we call an "artist selection committee" of Artspace, Belmont Shelter and local artists and arts patrons who have been supportive but don't have an interest in living in the building. While artists in the building derive their income from various occupations other than art, they qualify themselves by bringing a portfolio of work from the last number of years, by performing or by bringing in a resume of shows that they've put on or arts education they've completed.

Q: How has Artspace impacted other areas?

A: We've completed 18 projects across the country. The project we like to look at most is our most mature, two buildings we redeveloped in the late 1980s and early 1990s in downtown St. Paul where the neighborhood was pretty scarce of residents. After those two huge buildings were filled with nearly 120 artists, the neighborhood began to take a different shape and others began to invest in nearby buildings. The population has more than doubled since the artists moved in, there's a farmer's market, there are condominiums across the street. It became known as a hip, artsy area of town. Before that, people just thought of it as an industrial, blighted area of the city.

Q: Why choose Buffalo to start another Artspace project?

A: The reason we began this project is because of the extremely strong leadership at every level we came across. Everyone was incredibly savvy and smart and had this "can-do" attitude that will make a big difference.

Wendy Holmes is vice president of resource development & consulting at Artspace Projects, based in Minneapolis. Buffalo's $16.9 million project, at 1219 Main St., is scheduled to be finished by Savarino Companies on June 1. Holmes and her colleague, Andrew Commers, discussed the project.

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