Artist spaces coming to former police headquarters

The building will be converted to studio and gallery spaces. Photo by Mike Diegel.

While there have been delays, new artist spaces and housing will be coming to 801 Sligo Ave. on the property where the former 3rd District Police Headquarters was located.

The holdup has been the financing, said Heidi Zimmer, senior vice president, property development for Artspace.

“We applied for a nine percent tax credit last fall, in October. That’s the primary financing vehicle for the housing,” she explained, adding that it’s a competitive state program and Artspace did not get the award that year.

“We went back to the state this spring,” she continued, “so they’ve now put us on a different kind of track for financing, so it will be a combination of what we call four percent tax credits and bond financing.”

The county, additional state funding, along with private investment and foundation support will complete the financing package, she added. Lender investor proposals are due to Artspace today.

“The plan is to start construction next year,” Zimmer said. “I have every belief that it will.”

In the meantime, Zimmer gives a lot of credit to Artspace’s community partner in this project, the East Silver Spring Civic Association.

“The project definitely came about at the desire of the East Silver Spring community,” Zimmer said. “The leadership there talked to the county and said ‘Hey, the county’s got land but we want to see it developed into creative space to support the local arts community.’”

“The community, executive branch and Artspace worked as partners on the design and zoning for this project,” said Karen Roper, ESSCA Chair of Land Use, Zoning & DPWT. “Artspace set a new standard of cooperation and collaboration with the community and the ESSCA vote in support was unanimous. We are excited about this addition to our neighborhood.”

Artspace was selected for this project through a process that included a Request for Proposals. the organization has built about 40 similar projects around the country. that includes Brookland in Washington, D.C., Zimmer’s first assignment when she joined Artspace 12 years ago..

The Silver Spring plans include 68 live/work affordable units for artists and other creatives, Zimmer said. The construction will include 19 studio, 27 one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom and three three-bedroom units with small carve-outs of 10 percent each for veterans and for non-artists.

“The [former] police station itself is going to be converted into about 30 studio spaces,” Zimmer said, for people who may live elsewhere but need affordable, rental studio space. It will include gallery space as well.

The organization also will build 11 townhomes for sale, seven of which will be market rate and four affordable units aimed at the artistic community. Following a competitive bidding process, Bozzuto Construction was chosen for the project and work should begin by next summer.

The Planning Board approved the project’s plans on July 21, 2016 by a unanimous vote. It will include 1,500 square feet of retail space along with at least 12,500 square feet of public open space and at least 11,870 square of common open space, both on site.

And while acknowledging that some people would like to see more inclusive affordable housing projects, “What I always want people to remember is artists are also families, artists are elderly, artists are single-parent households,” Zimmer said.

“They come in every color, every shape, size,” she continued. “It’s not an exclusive group that is set aside from other people. They are veterans, they are teachers, they are service workers, and they just need a little bit different kind of space and it helps to live in a community of artists.”

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