Yesterday I posted about the arts happenings in downtown Kent and I added a story from Crains Business Magazine that talked about a new initiative to transform Cleveland’s Rust Belt into an Arts Belt. That arts initiative was the topic of conversation at a conference held in Cleveland that brought in examples from cities all over the country that have used the arts to turn their economy around. It turns out that the star of the show was Padacuh Kentucky. I know, I know, how the heck did Paducah Kentucky become the poster child for arts revitalization — it turns out they have a terrific artist relocation program that they used to transform an old blighted part of town into an art haven. If we’re serious about leveraging the arts in Kent the Paducah story is a must read.
If you’re one of those people that has to read the last chapter of the book first, here’s a great ABC News video clip that takes you right to the end explaining how the big paducahs in Paducah did it. If not, read on and enjoy the suspenseful build up.
ARTS AND THE ECONOMY
Key role of artists in urban development discussed at Cleveland conference
Friday, May 16, 2008
Plain Dealer Art Critic
Artists see themselves as devoted to creativity. City planners now look at artists and see something else: a highly valuable form of urban fertilizer.
Sprinkle some galleries on a dying main street. Change the zoning to allow live-work loft space. Throw in some government money for facade renovation or mortgage assistance.
Voila: Property values will jump, and you’ll soon worry about how to avoid gentrification, which is what happens when people with money move into a former zone of blight.
This scenario, more or less, was the leitmotif of an all-day conference held at Cleveland State University on Wednesday, titled “From Rust Belt to Artist Belt.” Organized by the nonprofit Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, the event was intended to raise awareness about one of the latest trends in urban development – the rise of cultural districts in struggling city neighborhoods.
Nineteen speakers described how cities from Pittsburgh to Paducah, Ky., have lured artists, galleries and cultural organizations to areas formerly written off by developers and city governments. Keynote speaker Jeremy Nowak, president of the Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit organization devoted to community revitalization, said artists are naturally gifted at what he called “place-making.”
“Artists and creative people are adept at uncovering and expressing and repurposing the assets of place,” he said. “In the great halls of philanthropy, we try to force these things.”
Cleveland is a “thought leader” in the new movement, said Esther Robinson, founder of Art- Home, a New York-based organization that helps artists attain financial literacy and homeownership.
This week alone, advocates of the arts in Cleveland announced progress on major projects to create a theater and entertainment district at Gordon Square in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, and to create a District of Design along lower Euclid Avenue.
Linda Warren, president of Village Capital Corp. in Cleveland, said that 11 of 36 neighborhoods in the city are doing something to promote themselves as an art-friendly place.
Attended by 180 artists, developers, foundation officers, community activists and city planners, the conference examined programs and services that help artistic urban pioneers locally and nationwide.
Paducah spent $2.8 million to recruit artists to live in the formerly blighted Lower Town neighborhood, a 30-block area of crumbling Victorian mansions near the city’s downtown.
The investment generated $35 million in private economic impact and turned Lower Town into a regional attraction that garnered national media attention.
Conferees also sounded cautionary notes. Cleveland City Planning Director Robert Brown said the city hasn’t figured out yet how to reconcile building codes with a new live-work zone east of the city’s downtown.
The zoning allows artists to live and work in former industrial spaces, but the state building code still requires upgrades that can push the cost of loft living too high for artists.
Mark Barone, the artist and planner who led the revival in Paducah, lamented that sometimes, poor residents get pushed out as a consequence of the influx of wealth.
“Did we displace people? Yeah, I’m not going to lie to you,” Barone said. “Anyone who tells you they don’t is lying.”
Lillian Kuri, director of special projects at the Cleveland Foundation, said the answer is to plan cultural districts in ways that allow artists and prior residents to acquire equity so they, too, can benefit when property values rise.
Padacuh Kentucky … artist haven? How did that happen?
At a time when funding for the arts is constantly being cut, Paducah has established an environment where artists and the arts are flourishing. Paducah’s Artist Relocation Program was started in August of 2000 and is now a national model for using the arts for economic development. The Artist Relocation Program has been awarded the Governors Award in the Arts, the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, The American Planning Association National Planning Award and most recently Kentucky League of Cities Enterprise Cities Award.
The Artist Relocation Program is about artist ownership, thus giving the artists a vested interest in our community. To date we have relocated seventy artists who have taken us up on our financial and cultural incentives.
These artists have relocated from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Okalahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. It is with the vision of Paducah as a thriving artist community that our local leaders endorse the Paducah Artist Relocation Program.
The Details of the Program
Artist Relocation Incentives:
- Lowertown is dual zoned for commercial and residential use. This enables residents to have gallery/studio, restaurant/ cafÉ, etc. and living space all under one roof.
- 100% financing for purchase and rehabilitation of an existing structure or the building of a brand new structure.
- Basic loan package is 7% – 30yr. fixed rate up 300% of appraised value.
- Free lots for new construction as available.
- City will pay up to $2500 for architectural services or other professional fees.
- National marketing of Lowertown Arts District and Paducah.
Proposal Requirements (Applies to city-owned lots and buildings. See Available Properties listing)
At a minimum, each proposal should provide the following items in detail following a logical format.
- Purchase price offer for property.
- Intended use of the property.
- Detailed rehab plans & all changers and improvements necessary both to meet code requirements as well as to provide for the intended use must be specified and detailed.
- Detailed illustrations of floor plans and use of space.
- Front, side and rear elevations of exterior facades including any significant architectural details. Drawings/Renderings must be large, clear, and detailed.
- Firm third party professional (engineer, architect, knowledgeable & experienced contractor[s]) estimate of the entire costs for rehab. Estimate should be broken down by cost centers and include a total.
- Estimated firm timeline indicating the duration of the project from start to finish.
- Proof of financial ability to complete the project in an amount matching the estimated costs. Proof must be in the form of a letter of credit, loan commitment, proof of cash on hand, or some other proof of financial ability acceptable to the City. Grants or special financing must be listed, but cannot count toward financial ability unless a copy of the award notice or other acceptable guarantee is provided
- Proof of financial ability to complete the project in an amount matching the estimated costs. Proof must be in the form of a letter of credit, loan commitment, proof of cash on hand, or some other proof of financial ability acceptable to the City. Grants or special financing must be listed, but cannot count toward financial ability unless a copy of the award notice or other acceptable guarantee is provided (make this the first one in this list)
- Priority for start to finish projects, which address the entire structure(s).
- Priority for owner occupied properties
- Priority for uses which serve the highest & best use of the property in the opinion of the board.
New York, Paris, Paducah? Kentucky Attracts Artists
Financial Incentives Draw Creative Types to Formerly Blighted Downtown
By WENDY BRUNDIGE
PADUCAH, Ky., Dec. 23, 2006 —
They’ve come from all over America: Artists from Washington, D.C., San Francisco, even New York City have somehow found their way to Paducah, a small Kentucky city on the banks of the Ohio River.
With a population of only 26,000, it’s a place where culture meant a trip to the one shopping mall or movie theater — or at least that’s what used to pass for culture in Paducah until a unique incentive program brought the artists, more than 70 in all.
They started coming in 2000 to buy and restore homes in Lowertown, Paducah’s oldest — and most blighted — neighborhood.
“We had drug houses, and we had crime, and we had ladies of the evening walking the streets,” said Paducah city planner Tom Barnett, who helped develop the program. “It was a neighborhood that was essentially abandoned and just avoided by the residents of Paducah.”
The city’s artist relocation program is the brainchild of Barnett and former Paducah resident Mark Barone. Barone was an artist living in Lowertown, and one morning in 2000 he witnessed a drug deal taking place on the porch of a nearby house. It was then that he had the idea of bringing artists to town in hopes of saving the neighborhood. He took the idea to Barnett, and the two joined forces.
“Artists are the kind of folks who see what can be,” Barnett said. “They see potential, and we knew that was what it was going to take when they came in to see the neighborhood in its current condition.”
Ira and Charlotte Erwin were the first couple to buy a house in Lowertown. The Erwins owned one of Paducah’s only art galleries at the time, but they were barely keeping afloat financially and had decided to close their business and move away. They even found a house they wanted to buy in Illinois. But when the relocation program started, they decided instead to purchase one of Lowertown’s dilapidated old homes.
“The first weekend that we were here & we were out in the yard, and 18 different people stopped & and said, ‘Thank you for buying this house. Thank you for saving it,'” Charlotte said.
It was the official beginning of a project that would succeed beyond anyone’s expectations.
“There were five of us, I guess, the first year,” Erwin said. “Then the next year, eight more came, and then it just mushroomed.”
“When we first started, we were just trying to fix up an old, rundown neighborhood,” Barnett said. “We blew through that in about the first nine months and started realizing what it could become.”
Now more than 70 artists live in Lowertown. Paul Lorenz made the move from San Francisco in 2003. After growing up in Chicago and spending all of his adult life in big cities, he said Paducah has been an adjustment.
“Three years later, I’m still adjusting to small-town living,” Lorenz said. “I get a little frustrated sometimes, but in general, creatively it’s been the best move I’ve ever done.”
Mark Palmer also traded city life for Paducah. He moved from Washington, DC in 2002, giving up a successful career in the hotel industry for a chance to restore one of Lowertown’s oldest buildings. He bought it for only one dollar, then invested more than $200,000 of his own. Palmer considers the deal a bargain.
“I don’t even think you can get a cup of coffee anymore for a dollar in DC,” Palmer said.
A big part of the draw for artists is the opportunity to own a home. In most other cities that have tried using artist housing to clean up neighborhoods, the programs have been based on renting. That means that as property values go up, rents also go up and eventually a lot of the artists are priced out the market. That can’t happen in Paducah.
“I can’t be forced out of here,” Erwin said. “I can’t be made to leave because I can’t afford to be in this space.”
The ownership-based program was made possible with help from a locally owned bank that was willing to take a chance on an untested idea. Paducah Bank offers artists who want to move to Lowertown no-down-payment, low-interest loans for the full cost of buying and restoring the property. That often means loaning much more than the appraised value of the home.
“When we first opened the program, we frankly didn’t know what to expect … [but] working with the artists has been really, really, really, really good for us,” said Paducah Bank Senior Vice President Larry Rudolph, who puts together financing packages for artists interested in making the move. “Some of them come from as far away as San Francisco and New York where they knew they would never have the opportunity to own their own home. They come to Paducah, they’re in their own home.”
The bank also makes no judgments based on an artist’s body of work. If applicants prove they can support themselves and pay back the loan, they’re approved.
“We kept it very open,” Barnett said. “We want it to be inclusive, and we figured that we just would keep the doors wide open, that we would let the chips fall where they may. And the people that would be attracted to come here would be the right people.”
Nearly seven years after the first artists came to Paducah, this blue-collar, red-state town seems to have welcomed them with open arms. But that wasn’t always the case.
“Naturally there’s a culture clash because you get these 70 people from all over the country suddenly here, in a town where nothing — especially this area, Lowertown — where nothing has happened in 50, 60 years,” Lorenz said. “So yeah, people are a little hesitant.”
“The first two, three months nobody even came through the door,” Lorenz continued. “And it really wasn’t until this year, where people are really more comfortable now … They come in, just walk right in to the work side [of the gallery], and they want to see what’s new and what’s going on.”
Paducah’s program is now a national model. Barnett says so many towns are interested in trying something similar that he now has to turn away some of the city planners who want to come see how the program works. And as for the future of Paducah itself, Barnett says the sky’s the limit.
“It could continue to grow and have an amazing effect on this community, and make it an arts and cultural destination for the entire country,” Barnett said. “I think our fate is in our hands, and we can decide what we want to do with it.”