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Developers are marketing their plan for the blighted Stone’s Warehouse property east of downtown as the Raleigh Arts Village. But some neighbors wonder whether the apartments will actually attract artists – or whether they should even try.
Developer Vann Joines and a Winston-Salem firm that rehabs old buildings will likely lease the vacant buildings at the corner of Davie and East streets from the city. They want to use a combination of affordable housing and historic preservation tax credits to restore the structures as a 49-unit apartment complex. The goal, Joines says, is to create an affordable place for artists to live and work within walking distance of downtown.
Legally though, Joines can’t limit the complex to artists. “These units will be open to everybody that meets the income criteria,” he explained at a community meeting last week. That means anyone who makes less than 60 percent of the area’s median income can apply.
Neighbors of the property asked Joines how the apartments will differ from Carlton Place, another affordable housing community across the street. Joines plans to offer larger living rooms that artists can use as their studios. One-bedroom units will be 850 square feet – about 200 square feet more than the government’s minimum for affordable housing units. Proximity to downtown galleries including Artspace will also attract artists, developers said.
“We think it will have its own synergy,” said Rex Todd of The Landmark Group, Joines’ partner on the project.
But community activist Danny Coleman is skeptical. “We see the arts being pimped and there’s no connection to the arts community,” he said.
Coleman wants to see the developers partner with an organization devoted to promoting black culture. Joines could provide space in the redeveloped building to an arts group, Coleman said.
“An institution that’s associated with the community would benefit,” he said. “How can we let (the development) happen and get something out of it over the long haul?”
Todd said the plans initially called for a gallery space, but that space will now need to be another apartment for the project to succeed financially. They still hope to hire a local artist to paint a mural on the side of the building.
Also, the developers are providing 900 square feet for the Rex Senior Health Center’s eventual expansion. “One of the things that we heard is it is crucial to keep Rex Healthcare at their current location,” Joines said.
Several months ago, Joines and Landmark offered the city $350,000 to buy the property, far below the appraised value of $2.4 million. Raleigh leaders decided to pursue a long-term lease instead. The city council was expected to approve the lease terms on Tuesday; the developers would pay $2.6 million over a 99-year period.
Joines would invest $6.6 million in the property, restoring buildings that are little more than empty shells. He expects to get $4.1 million in low-income housing credits, $470,000 in historic development credits, and $75,000 from the city’s housing development loan program – with the final $2 million from a private lender.
With so much public funding going to the project, Michele Grant, Raleigh’s community development director, is worried the focus on artists might discourage qualified low-income applicants.
“I think we need to be very clear that this will be affordable housing for anyone who meets the guidelines,” she said. “I think we need to be transparent.”
Once the lease agreement is finalized, Joines and Landmark will seek rezoning for the property. A public hearing on the rezoning is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 5 at City Hall, 222 W. Hargett St.