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Lofts aim to lure artists with space

The spacious and affordable apartments in the red-brick building under renovation at 1219 Main St., near Coe Place, feature the kind of living and work spaces geared to send artists aloft.

Prospective tenants, such as Aaron Barraclough of North Tonawanda, for the first time Thursday got a peek inside the Artspace Buffalo Lofts, marveling at the high ceilings, wooden floors and copious windows.

"The apartments are far larger than I thought they would be for a one-bedroom," Barraclough said after he toured the three-story, 86,000-square-foot art deco building, not far from downtown Buffalo.

The 60-unit building features studios, as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that will be open to anyone who meets the income guidelines, but prospective tenants like Barraclough, a student studying graphic design at Daemen College, would be the preferred occupants. Rents range from $236 to $769 per month.

"I like the idea that there's going to be a community gallery mostly because I produce a lot of work," Barraclough said.

Jassen Otto, a graphic artist and musician, and his wife, Colleen O'Mara, currently live in a Richmond Avenue apartment, but are seeking larger quarters for themselves and their infant daughter. The Artspace apartments offer an additional bonus: artist work spaces including, possibly, a soundproof room for musicians to practice.

"We're a little crowded now, and right now we have to find rehearsal space, and we're not even in the city rehearsing," Otto said.

As chief of staff for then-Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. Eva Hassett, executive vice president of Savarino Cos., was instrumental in bringing Artspace to Buffalo. After tenant applications are submitted by the May 11 deadline, Hassett said Artspace will convene a review panel to select tenants.

It "will be reviewing to look at people's devotion to their art, the history with their art and creativity and how they might fit into a community," Hassett said.

"We want to build a community and make sure that the people [who are selected to become tenants] want to be a part of something. That's how it's going to have a greater impact on the rest of the neighborhood around it," Hassett added.

Artspace, a nonprofit, Minneapolis-based real estate developer, specializes in spaces for the arts and has overseen 20 similar projects across the country.

"Specifically, in the units, we focus on natural light, big, open flexible floor plans," said Will Law, chief financial officer for Artspace.

"We keep them simple, quite frankly, and get out of the artists' way. We don't try to out-think the artists in terms of their specific needs," Law added.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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