BY KEVIN THOMPSON | PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER | JUNE 17, 2017
LAKE WORTH — The term “starving artist” may be a cliche, but it’s also very real.
For many, paying rent or a mortgage and shelling out money for a studio space is often a recipe for financial disaster.
That is where the live-work art community concept comes in.
Several cities nationwide, including Lake Worth, are building affordable subsidized housing for artists to both live and create.
“Artists like to do everything in one central location,” said Chris Dabros, deputy director of the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency. “There are so many creative-minded people in the city who make a living through the arts.”
Not only that, a live-work artist development often creates a sense of community, a place where artists can connect and feel like they belong.
The CRA, along with Neighborhood Renaissance, an economic development agency, recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Art Lofts of West Village , an eight-townhome development on the northeast corner of Lucerne Avenue and North F Street designed specifically for working artists in the heart of downtown Lake Worth.
The 2,000-square-foot units feature a ground floor studio space and an upstairs living space. The homes sell for $245,000, which, to some, may sound pricey considering they are for low and moderate income artists.
“It’s market value,” Dabros said. “There are similar townhomes in the area going for more than $300,000. This area is less because it’s west of Dixie Highway.”
The price could be reduced if Neighborhood Renaissance gets additional money from Palm Beach County, Terri Murray, Neighborhood Renaissance’s executive director, said.
The group is scheduled to go before county commissioners next month, Murray added.
Construction is scheduled to start in the next few weeks, according to Michael Pecar, director of real estate development for Neighborhood Renaissance.
The $3.2 million project should be completed by February, Pecar said. The project is partially funded by the CRA through a grant from the National Stabilization Program.
The Art Lofts joins The Urban Lofts, 12 live-work lofts that were built across the street for $3.5 million four years ago.
The 21,000-square-foot Art Lofts site, which once housed a Palm Beach County Health Department building, will also include a 2,000-square-foot commercial space that can fit up to three businesses, Joan Oliva, CRA director told The Palm Beach Post last year.
She said the CRA is looking for arts-related businesses or a coffee or bookshop to fill those spaces.
As for the lofts, there are requirements for purchase.
For starters, you must be someone who makes a living off the arts. You could be a painter, a sculpture, an orchestra conductor. It doesn’t really matter. The criteria is broad, but you must be able to show a body of work that demonstrates you’re a working artist.
That work will be reviewed by a selection committee. “There is some subjectivity involved,” Dabros said.
There are also income requirements.
According to Pecar, one person can’t earn more than $60,480 annually. For a two-person household, that figure is $69,120 and for three persons its $77,760.
So far, Pecar has said Neibhorhood Renissance, the community’s owner and developer, received about 25 applications.
The CRA believes that number will only increase as the project moves forward. “There will be a lot more interest once people see the dirt being moved and the buildings start to go up,” Dabros said.
Pecar believes both communities can have a domino effect on the area known for its blight.
“Hopefully more developers will come and start building more homes,” Pecar said.
As Murray noted, when the Art Lofts are complete, there will be more feet on the ground, more activity in the area.
“All of that supports business development,” Murray said.