Police Station to Be Converted to Commercial Arts Space, Housing Added

Police building will be converted to arts-related commercial space. Photo by Mike Diegel.

The former District 3 police station at 801 Sligo Ave. will be converted into arts-related commercial space as part of the planned Artspace Silver Spring Arts Campus scheduled to break ground this summer.

More than 50 people, mostly artists, crowded a room at the Silver Spring Civic Center to hear representative of Minneapolis-based Artspace discuss their plans for the site that will include 68 live/work spaces geared to artists and 11 townhomes.

Property Manager Erika Dani talked about plans for the commercial space, which will include about 30 artist studios. The group is open to hearing from potential tenants with their ideas now.

While it will include some retail space, retail uses are not intended to be the primary focus for the revamped building.

The focus will be on those businesses that serve arts-related needs and could include many types of uses: studios (e.g., dance, yoga, graphic design), galleries, maker space, artists co-ops, a bookstore, spaces for non-profits and community organizations, or other uses.

Dani said they want three things from a potential business—an idea, a business plan, and a lease—but primarily, they would be looking for a good fit. She urged anyone who has an idea to contact her to begin a conversation, noting that since construction has not yet started, Artspace has maximum flexibility to customize commercial spaces.

As previously reported, the Silver Spring plans include 68 live/work affordable units primarily targeting artists. The rentals will include 19 studio, 27 1-bedroom, 14 2-bedroom and eight 3-bedroom apartments.

In addition, the group will build and sell 11 townhomes along Grove Street, including four units of workforce housing and seven market-rate homes.

Construction is expected to begin in September or October, said Project Manager Ariel Garcia. The apartments and commercial spaces should be ready in January or February 2020, and the townhomes open that summer.

When the group is ready to being leasing, Dani said, the process will begin with a pre-application to determine eligibility for the affordable housing, which has income limits.

There would be several other steps in the process, such as verifying income, and would culminate with a meeting with an Artist Selection Committee to, according to an Artspace handout, “to determine [the artist’s] level of participation in, and commitment to, the arts; they do not judge the content or quality of an applicant’s artistic work.”

While anyone who qualifies for affordable housing can apply for these units, preference will be given to artists, Dani said, including non-professionals. (Much more information is available in the Artspace FAQ.)

She noted that Artspace has a flexible definition of “artist” that covers many types, including visual, digital, photography, functional art (e.g., jewelry, rugs, furniture, pottery, etc.), performers, and “culturally significant practices” (e.g., tattoo artist, hairdresser, craftsperson, teacher, chef, etc.)

“The key,” she said, “is that you’re creating something.”

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