Aurora, consultants, consider next steps in ArtSpace bid on Colfax corridor

“I think Aurora needs more of a critical mass in that area to scream arts district to really tell the outside world that this is a space that you might want to visit and experience art.”

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Hemanta Acharya, a junior at Aurora West Preparatory Academy, peers at artwork Jan. 20 at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts. Art teachers from across the Aurora Public Schools district submitted artwork for DAVA’s annual educators’ showcase. The show runs from Jan. 23 to March 6. (Aaron Cole/Aurora Sentinel)

The Collection

Satya Wimbish, Aurora Cultural Arts District (ACAD) vice president, playfully sorts through donated bundles of yarn in preparation for an upcoming festival June 25 at The Collection near East Colfax Avenue and Dayton Street. ACAD is hosting its annual arts festival, "Reup: Recycle and Upcycle" from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Saturday June 28 on the 16-block section of East Colfax Avenue between Dallas and Florence streets. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Homeless Art

Late comers catch up on their animal drawings during the "Artists from the Streets" class on May 5 at the Aurora Cultural Arts District headquarters at 1400 Dallas St. The free weekly class organized by ACAD and Aurora Warms the Night is open to homeless and formerly homeless artists of all levels. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Homeless Art

Artist Rene Farkass uses markers to sketch participants during the "Artists from the Streets" class on May 5 at the Aurora Cultural Arts District headquarters at 1400 Dallas St. The free weekly class organized by ACAD and Aurora Warms the Night is open to homeless and formerly homeless artists of all levels. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Homeless Art

Artist Rene Rafkass also takes up drawing during the "Artists from the Streets" class on May 5 at the Aurora Cultural Arts District headquarters at 1400 Dallas St. The free weekly class organized by ACAD and Aurora Warms the Night is open to homeless and formerly homeless artists of all levels. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Aurora Arts District

One of the two stages at Vintage Theatre at 1468 Dayton St. on April 28 is one of Aurora most famous venues for live performances, and has added some personal touches to enhance the theater experience. Aurora has invested funds in hopes to connect directly with the art district tenants and bring new audiences to the area's theaters, galleries and restaurants. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)

Aurora Arts District

Letters outside the Vintage Theatre at 1468 Dayton St. on April 28 stand out in the neighborhood as a vibrant and inviting venue. Aurora has invested funds in hopes to connect directly with the art district tenants and bring new audiences to the area's theaters, galleries and restaurants. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)

Colfax Art Walk

Gallery vistors look at Morgan Barbary's artwork Friday evening, Sept. 14 along East Colfax Avenue. This month's art walk in the Aurora Arts District included the launch of a new lighting system on the exteriors of buildings along the strip, along with a formal dedication by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Sunrise Artworks, Walt Weinberg

Some of Walt Weinberg's unfinished vases Friday afternoon, June 1 at Sunrise Artworks. This year's Aurora Arts Festival will focus on clay and pottery. The event, titled "From the Earth," will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 9 at the galleries, shops and businesses in the Aurora Arts District, centered at Fletcher Plaza at 9898 E. Colfax Ave. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Following a full docket of meetings, tours and focus groups across the Aurora Cultural Arts District March 1 and 2, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm tasked with evaluating the vitality of the bohemian East Colfax corridor appears poised to conduct a full-market study of the ACAD in the coming months.

Wendy Holmes, senior vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships at Artspace, intimated at the lone public meeting during Artspace’s recent visit the next phase of the consulting process — which could involve an in-depth look at the housing stock and community appetite for live/work space in the ACAD — could be in the cards for the arts district. The meeting was held March 1 at The Vintage Theatre.

“Based on our findings, we’ll probably recommend that we do a market study to understand really what the demand is for this kind of space in a more sceinfitic way,” Holmes said. “So we understand how many artists and creative people need what kinds of space and what they can afford to pay, what their family sizes are and what artistic pursuits they practice.”

If Artspace does recommend a future market survey, city council would once again have to sign off on the process and price tag. The final city cost for the initial feasibility study, which began last week and will culminate with an in-depth report in five to seven weeks, was $24,950, according to city spokeswoman Julie Patterson.

Artspace offers two tiers of market surveys, according to Holmes. The cheaper option costs $30,000 and just analyzes the wants and needs of artists and their families. The second tier runs $42,500 and also looks at creative businesses and relevant nonprofit agencies in the area. Both studies would take about six months to complete, according to Holmes.

Holmes was bullish on the area after meeting with city and community leaders.

“The East Colfax area has a ton of potential and there’s clearly something that’s been starting to happen through the arts district, through the performing arts spaces there, through DAVA (Downtown Aurora Visual Arts) and the ACAD space … but it’s not always obvious,” she said. “I think Aurora needs more of a critical mass in that area to scream arts district to really tell the outside world that this is a space that you might want to visit and experience art.”

At the March 1 meeting, Holmes outlined several of Artspace’s successful projects in Colorado and across the country. Locally, the company is in various phases of development in Lakewood, Denver, Loveland, Elizabeth, Pueblo and Ridgway, among others.

Holmes said projects that are selected to be developed into bona fide live/work hubs typically take between three and five years to complete. She added that Artspace projects are funded through public-private partnerships and rely heavily on low-income housing tax credits — more than half of the funding for the touted Artspace project in Loveland came from the vouchers.

Holmes peered at several properties with Aurora arts owners, including the Friends Building, The Soul Center, the Riviera Motel and the so-called Eagle Claw Building at 14th and Yosemite, according to Tracy Weil, managing director of the ACAD.

Weil said the option of constructing a new structure, possibly near the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, was also discussed.

At the March 1 meeting, audience members expressed optimism about the city’s progressive peek at Aurora’s urban core, but were concerned the project could take half a decade to complete.

“I really think this is a situation where, if we build it, people will come,” said TaRosa Jacobs, a local creative who attended several of the Artspace meetings.

City Councilman Bob LeGare, who attended at least two of the meetings with Artspace, expressed concern that Artspace’s report could be skewed.

“I want to make sure we’re getting an unbiased analysis — not a foregone conclusion,” he said.

LeGare added he still supports the Artspace effort, but he’s hesitant to put hefty support for the arts atop the city’s laundry list of municipal issues.

“With the extensive need we have for low-income housing in this city the other question I have is, is it the right thing to do when we have teachers and all kinds of low-income people in the community who can’t really afford to live here?” he said.