Many St. Louis artists struggle to make a living and pay the rent.
The Kranzberg Arts Foundation wants to help by buying 25 properties and developing affordable artists’ homes and studios. Most are in the Gravois Park area, bound by Jefferson Avenue, Chippewa Street, Grand Boulevard and Cherokee Street.
The city’s Land Reutilization Authority will let the foundation buy the properties for $30,000. Many of the 12 existing buildings and 13 vacant lots have been neglected for decades. The Kranzberg Foundation plans to renovate the dilapidated buildings and construct new homes on the vacant lots before offering them for sale to artists. The work will begin this fall.
Artists have long pressed the city of St. Louis for greater financial support, pointing out that the arts are a key part of the region’s economy.
St. Louis poet and art supporter MK Stallings said the Kranzberg project addresses a critical need.
"It’s bold, it’s brave and it takes people with enough capacity to absorb and manage risk to pull this off," Stallings said.
Most buildings in the area are eligible for federal and state tax credits because Gravois Park lies within a federally designated historic district. But the foundation isn’t planning to use the historic tax credits, a decision that will give it more leeway when undertaking renovations. Construction plans will not require an OK from city’s Cultural Resources Office because the area does not lie within a locally designated historic district.
Kranzberg Arts Foundation executive director Chris Hansen said in a statement that he is optimistic about the project.
"The Kranzberg Arts Foundation in partnership with Incarnate Word Foundation and the Regional Arts Commission are excited that we have been awarded the options on 25 LRA properties in the Gravois Park Neighborhood with the intent of building wealth and equity, through home ownership, for low and moderate income artists," Hansen said.
Only one of the properties is located in the Dutchtown area, adjacent to Gravois Park. The entire parcel adds up to 91,798 square feet.
The foundation promises to release more details soon, including information about how artists can apply for the program.
Stallings, founder of the UrbArts organization, hopes the idea will catch on.
"I hope their leadership in this sector will inspire others to do more and respect the craft of artists more," he said.
Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL