It has been six months since the Flora Street Lofts, the privately-backed housing development slated to plop subsidized artist housing at the doorstep of pricey Museum Tower in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, received approval for $5 million in state housing credits. Today, project developers met with the Dallas City Council’s economic development committee to talk about tapping into the Downtown Connection/City Center TIF to obtain an additional $2 million in city funding which would go towards building out the development’s parking garage. It’s all part of the finishing touches on the funding plan (laid out here) that push Flora Street Lofts towards its May construction date. Nearby venues, museums, and event organizers will also be happy with the news that garage may add some additional reduced rate public use parking spaces to the district.
According to the report on the Dallas Morning News’ website, most of today’s briefing involved bringing the council member up to speed on the Flora Street Lofts concept and its goals, as well as outlining the project financials. The more interesting moment of the briefing came when council members asked about the application process, and specifically, who decides if an applicant qualifies as an “artist.” The model the Flora St. project will follow is set out by Minnesota-based Artspace, which determines the qualifications of applicants based on peer review. For the Flora St. project, these artistic peers will be chosen by La Reunion, TX, an Oak Cliff-based arts organization. If there aren’t enough applicants for the 39 of 46 housing units set aside for artists, though, the application process will be opened to non-artists.
Here’s where the real challenge for the Flora Street Lofts lies: will it be successful in attracting 39 serious artists to the Arts District? The answer to that relies heavily on information we still don’t know about the development. There is still no information on the website about the actual units, and specifically, what amenities the Flora Lofts would include to make units suitable artist studios (such as large door access; vent hoods; provisions for chemicals, all-hours noise, etc.). Then there’s the fact that the Arts District today doesn’t offer a lot of life amenities, such as a grocery store, bar, and other shops that serve daily needs. After all, outside of the programming of the various institutions and special events, the Arts District seems like, well, kind of a boring place to live. The concern is that while Flora Lofts looks on paper like a no-brainer good deal – let’s bring artists to the Arts District – it will only be successful if the development is actually attractive to serious artists.