Artspace looking for long-term success in Hamilton

The $11.8 million Artspace Hamilton Lofts project has been through a few delays, but people behind the project believe the full impact of the project will be realized in due time.

The Artspace Lofts project was started in 2010 when there was a secured purchase agreement made for the historic Hamilton Center Building at 222 High St. to develop commercial and living space for artists.

Artspace is a non-profit developer that was founded by the Minneapolis Arts Commission in 1979. The organization has developed successful affordable housing and artist communities around the country. The organization is currently working on one of its biggest projects that will be located in Harlem, NY.

City Manager Joshua Smith said he believes the project will be an important centerpiece in the city’s downtown renovation.

“I’m very pleased with how quickly the Artspace Lofts filled and how that has positively impacted the creative vibrancy of downtown Hamilton,” Smith said.

Sarah White, Artspace’s director of property development, said the goal was to have all 43 residential units filled by Sept. 1, as well as, most of the commercial space. Although that hasn’t happened, significant progress has been made, and those that are occupying the space, say it’s working.

The downtown Hamilton renovation project has 3,000-square-feet of ground floor commercial space. Renaissance Fine Art Supplies opened last November. As previously reported in the Journal-News, Rick Jones opened the small business with wife Chris and son Brandt. Jones retired as the director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts earlier this year.

Also opening its doors in November was the Almond Sisters Bakery, which is owned and operated by Hamilton-area natives and sisters Jenni Hubbard, Brandi Carder and Stephanie Melton.

“It’s been totally amazing. As a business owner, I’ve been able to develop relationships within the community and even outside of the community,” Hubbard said. “I literally get to watch my city grow from out of my store window.”

The Artspace project still has plenty of commercial and living space open that includes: studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in the 42-unit complex located at 222 High St.

Melton likes working in the bakery with her sisters, but she also enjoys living in the lofts.

“I’m raising my daughter in a wonderful community that is surrounded by creativity and is encouraged to be creative,” Melton said. “I’m thrilled to be living right down in the middle of Hamilton doing big things.”

Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, said that he’s focused on the long-term impact Artspace will have on the community and isn’t concerned with short-term delays.

“I think the Artspace Lofts are most definitely an an asset to the Hamilton arts community. But as with any new venture, it will take a while for the benefits to fully evolve,” MacKenzie-Thurley said. “As a relatively new resident to Hamilton myself, I understand that it will take take time for the Artspace residents to get to know the community and also find out how they can best be of impact, both socially and artistically.

“The city and residents of Hamilton have made some bold choices in recent years, many of which are just now coming to fruition,” he said. “I feel the full impact of the Artspace Lofts is yet to be felt here, but the potential is significant.”

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