Study Confirms Affordable Housing and Studio Need for Artists/Creatives in Asheville; Proposes Solutions

November 30, 2017
In 2015, The Center for Craft, in partnership with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, commissioned Minneapolis-based Artspace Consulting to conduct a preliminary feasibility assessment and report as the first step towards developing affordable space solutions for artists and the creative sector in Asheville, North Carolina.
Artspace Consulting recently submitted their preliminary feasibility assessment findings, which confirm the need for affordable housing and workspaces for artists and creatives. Artspace has recommended that Asheville move forward with an Arts Market Survey to test demand for an 80-unit affordable housing development. They met with over 200 stakeholders during a visit to Asheville in March 2017. The visit included meetings with artists, city officials, philanthropic, cultural and business leaders, and the general public. (click HEREto view the Preliminary Feasibility Report)
Stephanie Moore, Executive Director of the Center for Craft, views the project as a top community priority. “We know that Asheville has a tremendous creative sector that has significantly shaped the region’s identity and culture for the past 100 years. We also know that many artists and creatives are leaving due to the rapidly increasing cost of living, putting Asheville’s culture at risk. Developing affordable housing and space solutions for artists and creatives who represent a wide cross-section of the community, from our service sector, to our educators, to small business entrepreneurs.”
The project partnership came to fruition after a Fall 2015 meeting between the Center for Craft, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition. “I became a quick fan of the Center’s work. They are the national thought leader for the field of craft and are located here in Asheville,” remarked Kit Cramer, President/CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Craft has been and continues to be an economic success story of this region. As our organizations explored potential areas of collaboration, an affordable housing initiative that retains artists, makers and creatives emerged as an obvious fit. We put together a strong community leadership team and successfully raised the necessary funds for the study. I am thrilled with the initial results and look forward to continuing to move the project forward,” said Cramer.
The community leadership group includes:
Mayor Esther Manheimer, City of Asheville
Peter Alberice, MHAworks
Kit Cramer, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
Mike Marcus, Center for Craft
Stacey Millett, UNC Asheville
Stephanie Moore, Center for Craft
Sam Powers, City of Asheville Economic Development
Tara Scholtz, The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Brent Skidmore, UNC Asheville
Dana Stonestreet, HomeTrust Bank
Artspace Recommendation
Artspace is the national nonprofit leader for developing affordable artist housing and studio space. Their team was initially attracted to Asheville’s reputation as the arts-magnet of the Southeast. Once under contract, Artspace focused on assessing the unique characteristics of Asheville’s creative sector, affordable housing needs, philanthropic capacity, and political will. They leveraged their experience in building successful affordable artist housing options around the country to make recommendations on a project most likely to succeed here in Asheville: an 80-unit mixed use affordable housing development for artists.
In response to Artspace’s recommended path forward, Asheville’s civic, philanthropic and cultural leaders have successfully raised the funds to move forward with the Arts Market Survey, scheduled to launch late January 2018.
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) has been supportive of the project since its inception and worked to ensure that the feasibility assessment had the funding it needed to be successful. “We admire the work of Artspace and were intrigued by their past projects. We are proud to work with the Center for Craft, [Asheville Area] Chamber of Commerce, and City of Asheville to bring them to this region,” said Tara Scholtz, Senior Program Officer at CFWNC. “
Priority Development Site: City’s “Ice House” Site Located @ 81-91 Riverside Drive
A key aspect of the preliminary feasibility assessment included an evaluation of 10 potential development sites in Asheville, all of which are owned/controlled by governmental and institutional organizations, including the City of Asheville, UNC Asheville and the Center for Craft. Artspace used their standardized evaluation criterion that factors in property location, size, conditions, zoning/land use, acquisition/site control, sustained community impact and alignment with community priorities.
Based on this early assessment, Artspace identified the City-owned parcel located in the River Arts District at 81-91 Riverside Drive (I.E. “Ice House”) as the priority development site. Artspace noted that in spite of challenging site conditions, retaining artists in the River Arts District is a priority when taking into consideration their ‘sustainable community impact’ metrics. For this reason, they identified the City’s Bartlett Street site as their second site preference. In the assessment, Artspace noted that it is still too early in the feasibility phase to conclude that either is a perfect solution and that additional sites may be identified as they move through the feasibility and due diligence process.
Mayor Esther Manheimer was an early advocate of the project and sits on the Core Leadership Group. “Affordable housing continues to be a priority for the city of Asheville. The Artspace’s preliminary recommendation for an affordable housing development for artists in the River Arts District is exciting. I look forward working with our community partners to move this project forward,” remarked Manheimer.
Arts Market Survey
The Arts Market Survey provides an opportunity to test assumptions and develop a project concept that meets the community’s needs. Mike Marcus, Assistant Director at the Center for Craft, has led the initiative since its inception. Marcus views the Arts Market Survey as a critical next step, “This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s critical that everyone who considers themselves an artist, maker, musician, performer, designer and/or ‘creative’ be counted, whether it’s their full-time pursuit or part-time passion.” Towards that end, an ad-hoc arts leadership advisory group has been established. “In order to make sure that everyone is accounted for and considered, this has to be a community-wide approach. We are inviting a wide array of organizations to help us reach out and publicize the survey. If we haven’t found you, please reach out and help us spread the word!”
The Arts Market Survey launches in late January 2018 and will run for 6 weeks. To learn more and for project updates, visit
Funding Partners
The preliminary feasibility assessment and arts market survey have been generously funded by The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, City of Asheville, Ted and Senator Terry Van Duyn, Duke Energy Foundation, HomeTrust Bank, Dana and Jana Stonestreet, and Diamond Brand Gear.
Established in 1979, Artspace is a national nonprofit real estate developer that specializes in creating, owning, and operating affordable housing and studio space for artists and creative sector businesses. They currently own and operate 42-projects across the country and have made over $700 million in real estate investments to-date.
Founded in 1996, The Center for Craft is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the field of craft through fostering new ideas, funding craft scholarship, and backing the next generation of makers, curators and critics. The Center has developed a strong national reputation as a significant resource for artists, museums, academic researchers, university students and arts organizations. Each year, the Center for Craft administers over a quarter million dollars in grants to those working in the craft field.
The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with more than 1,700 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Asheville Chamber focuses on growing jobs, serving as a voice for business and fostering member success.