EL PASO, TX - Creating affordable housing is a collaborative art, involving nonprofit organizations, city planners, bankers, architects, and engineers, to name just a few. When completed, the projects often become focal points, helping to transform entire neighborhoods into economically viable, visually pleasing spaces.
In downtown El Paso, the name given to just such a project is Artspace El Paso Lofts. It will provide affordable housing for artists and their families, include retail space, and, by design, contribute to the restoration of El Paso's historic downtown district. The mixed-use rental project recently received a $500,000 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant from Wells Fargo and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas).
"Artspace is thrilled to have received the AHP grant and to move the project forward. We will use it for architectural and engineering costs related to construction," said Sarah White, director of property development for Artspace Projects, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "We work quite closely with Wells Fargo across the country. They are very supportive of our mission to create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations."
A five-story, building, Artspace El Paso Lofts will be located at 601 N. Oregon Street, site of the former El Paso Saddleblanket facility. HHL Architects, in collaboration with ASA Architects of El Paso, completed the initial design that includes plans for 51 live/work artist apartments with large windows for natural light, a central meeting/gallery space, and 5,000 square feet of commercial storefront on the first floor. Groundbreaking is expected in the second quarter of 2015. Occupancy is estimated to begin in the second or third quarter of 2016.
"Wells Fargo prides itself in helping to meet the needs of the communities it serves," said Linda Nelson, client service consultant, Wells Fargo Community Lending & Investment. "We are very excited to partner with Artspace in their collaboration with the City of El Paso to revitalize the city's downtown district through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas' Affordable Housing Program."
AHP grants are available through FHLB Dallas member institutions, such as Wells Fargo. The grants assist in the development of affordable, owner-occupied and rental housing for very low- to moderate-income households located primarily within FHLB Dallas's five-state District of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. In 2014, FHLB Dallas awarded $9.8 million in AHP grants to 33 projects that will result 1,586 new or renovated housing units.
"We are committed to community investment. It is a cornerstone of FHLB Dallas and the entire Federal Home Loan Bank system," said Bre Chapman, FHLB Dallas senior vice president and chief administrative officer. "Since the first AHP grants were awarded in 1990, FHLB Dallas has given more than $206 million in AHP competitive grants to member financial institutions in our District."
The AHP grant in El Paso will help to fill a need for affordable artist housing in this city of more than 682,000 people.
"We were invited by the El Paso Community Foundation to come to El Paso to assess the feasibility of doing an artist housing project. That was in 2008," Ms. White said. "There is a really strong, vibrant arts community in El Paso. We did a feasibility study and determined from the more than 400 artist responses that this project was of critical importance."
This is the third Artspace project in Texas, which includes Houston's Elder Street Artist Lofts and the National Hotel Artist Lofts in Galveston. Artspace Projects was founded in 1979. To date, the organization has built or refurbished nearly 2,000 units in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
"Artspace is a pretty unique group," Ms. White said. "There are definitely other examples of artist housing, but I don't know that there are any other developers that are as committed to artist housing as we are."