Keeping Creativity in the Community

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The most economically successful and vibrant cities in the United States…

… places like New York; Austin; Portland; Chicago; and Nashville, have many similar characteristics, but no bond stronger than their cultivation and celebration of the arts. Creative culture permeates the fabric of communities and the built environment, and supports amenities that attract young professionals. Whether it be visual arts that establish unique physical spaces or one-of-a-kind galleries, venues, and performing arts companies, the arts are a high-value asset to cities that want strong and diverse communities and economies.

Of course, no good things come without a cost. As arts and culture amenities develop and make cities more desirable to upwardly mobile professionals, housing affordability often becomes an issue. Full-time, independent artists, the very people who created much of the city’s desirability, may be pushed out of that community or at the very least, have difficulty finding work space. Ideally, the residential needs of artists can be combined with studio space in what is called “live/work” housing. For most urban cores already facing a shortage of affordable housing, considering the live/work needs of the creative class is even more difficult. Enter: Artspace.


Artspace, a national affordable live/work housing developer established in 1979, works with cities throughout the US that request their assessments, and pursue developments in those with the greatest feasibility and highest levels of community engagement. Quality developments are often made possible through Artspace’s creative partnerships with municipalities and non-profit community development funds/financial institutions.

Artspace began working with the Mesa community in 2012 to explore the feasibility of an Artspace live/work project due to strong local momentum for the arts as a strategy for downtown development. Early on in their feasibility study, Artspace partnered with Architectural Resource Team (A.R.T.), a local firm and For(u)m Partner, to lead the design process. With their commitment to community, creativity, and collaboration; as well as experience working on affordable, supportive, and live/work housing developments in Arizona, A.R.T. was an ideal partner for this project.

Over a six month period, Artspace and A.R.T. with local partners:

  • conducted five community meetings

  • launched a city-wide arts market survey

  • collected input from over 660 artists

From this process, in collaboration with the City, emerged many of the concepts that informed plans for the Artspace Mesa Lofts.

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The Artspace Mesa Lofts, providing affordable live/work housing and community facilities for artists, consists of 72,000 square feet of housing in three buildings with 1,500 square feet of commercial space and 4,400 square feet of community space. A mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom homes, each with its own studio space, provide approximately 50 units.

Loft design includes a vibrant outdoor community space and emphasizes efficiency, sustainability, and accessibility. Unit rents serve households below 60% of area median income levels, and each artist must apply to be considered. Artspace aims to achieve LEED for Homes Platinum certification.

In addition to A.R.T., Artspace localized development of these lofts by partnering with several local subcontractors and designers including:

By intentionally localizing the design and construction team, conducting extensive community engagement, and partnering with community organizations and the city, Artspace created a unique, high quality live/work residence for a burgeoning artist population in downtown Mesa.

If you would like to tour the lofts, please RSVP to the grand opening event on January 23rd, 2019.

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