Old Baptist Manor may soon house artists
Thursday, April 26, 2007
A real estate broker, an architect, a builder, an arts administrator and a city commissioner -- it's a group you might expect to find at a gallery in the Pearl District, not a defunct assisted-living complex off Northeast 82nd Avenue.
And that, the group says, is precisely the point.
The people behind a novel live/work artists colony under construction at the old Baptist Manor in the Montavilla neighborhood hope to change the typical pattern of artists transforming a run-down area only to be forced out by the resulting gentrification and skyrocketing rents.
"What we're after is sustainable artist work space," says Bill Neburka of Works Partnership Architecture, who is collaborating with Brad Malsin of Beam Development on the project conceived by City Commissioner Sam Adams.
"Every great city is also a really good locale for arts and culture and innovation," Adams says, "and as we move more and more jobs overseas, it becomes a basis for economic progress as well."
The 1915 buildings and a 1959 addition at Northeast 81st Avenue and Oregon Street are expected to yield 54 condominiums, priced at $95,000 and up, plus as many as 85 rental units. Some of the rentals will share baths and kitchens, and rents will be as low as $250. Completion is scheduled for the end of 2008.
"Our goal is to attract and serve a new creative class by building in living space and having space that is not immediately priced out of the market," Neburka says. "Affordability is a big consideration. We want to serve everybody's need, not make a lot of money."
Communal resources under consideration include kilns for potters and glassmakers, wood and metal shops, an exhibition gallery, a performance and meeting center (in the old chapel), a restaurant (possibly run with a cooking school) and a computer-equipped business center.
The project landed at Baptist Manor after Ted Gilbert, a commercial real estate broker and chairman of two nonprofit housing agencies, met with Adams about development in Lents. As he was leaving, Gilbert says, Adams asked him to be on the lookout for a locale for an artists community.
"I said, 'Sam, I know just the place!' " Gilbert says. "I mentor a young man out in Southeast, meet him for breakfast every Saturday, and we walked past Baptist Manor every week. One day there was a 'for sale' sign."
That week, Gilbert says, a tentative buyer withdrew, opening the door for him to put a deal together with the two housing agencies. Portland Affordable Housing Preservation Trust advanced $2 million, which Gilbert leveraged into a $15 million line of credit. HOST (Home Ownership a Street at a Time) Development is the marketing/sales/rental agent.
Adams recruited Neburka and Malsin as well as Eloise Damrosch, executive director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
"There are models for this idea elsewhere, but I don't think anybody has ever done anything of this scope," Gilbert says. "We envision providing artists with more than just living and working space. We want to help them build their careers -- promote them, work with them to get funding and show their work."
The complex doesn't have a name yet, and organizers are still working on how to define who qualifies as an artist. It also requires a zoning change, but Adams staffer Jesse Beason doesn't expect a problem, saying every community organization in the area has expressed support for a project expected to add to Montavilla's cachet.
"Montavilla," Adams says, "is a great undiscovered neighborhood."
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