12th Avenue Arts

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It’s a familiar refrain: “Remember when that cool arts group / coffee shop / music club / was here? Yeah, those were good times!” How many of us remember the Washington Shoe Building’s arts collective? The Last Exit coffee shop? Squid Row Tavern, anyone?

When Capitol Hill’s Odd Fellows Hall was sold a few years ago, Velocity Dance along with a host of other small arts organizations was forced out by unaffordable rent increases. Velocity appealed to the City Council for funding to help them re-locate elsewhere on Capitol Hill. Since the Council prefers to not directly fund such initiatives, I sponsored legislation setting aside capital funds for our Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs to award the most deserving capitol arts projects. Velocity was funded and they are now doing quite nicely in their new digs across the street from the future site of 12th Avenue Arts.

Still, it is rare that we hear of a completely new cultural amenity coming to a neighborhood with the potential of being embraced and loved by many. Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), a Seattle-based non-profit developer, may have good news on that front.

Their 12th Avenue Arts project, to be located at what is now a parking lot for the East Precinct Police Station, proposes 6,200 square feet of new cultural space and arts-related commercial space. Their new building will include artist studio space and two stage theaters – 149 and 80 seats – available to rent at rates affordable to even the smallest arts organizations. This newly created arts facility will address the continuing displacement of cultural organizations from Capitol Hill, such as Odd Fellows Hall.

They enlisted an Arts Advisory Group of artists, organizational leaders and funders to help guide their development process, such as Charlie Rathbun of 4Culture, Jennifer Zeyil of the Canoe Social Club and Mark Mueter of On The Boards.

Other arts interests in the neighborhood have expressed support, such as Northwest Film Forum, Velocity Dance Center, Richard Hugo House and Three Dollar Bill Cinema. There’s an expectation that these and other nearby organizations might occasionally rent 12th Avenue Arts for events they cannot accommodate in their own spaces.

In addition to new affordable space for the arts, their project plans to provide 88 newly designed apartment homes for families and individuals that may otherwise be priced out of the neighborhood. CHH stresses the need for affordable housing by citing a recent finding that a minimum wage earner would have to work 87 hours a week to afford a market-rate one bedroom apartment in the Seattle area.

The building will also provide the community a new public meeting space for free or at low cost. They are planned to be publicly accessible and to serve as a focal point for community meetings, special events, exhibitions, celebrations, learning classes, etc.

In exchange for contributing land on which the 12 Avenue Arts project will be built, CHH will provide secure below-grade parking for the Police Department’s East Precinct.

12th Avenue Arts’ fundraising committee consists of community leaders such as Ruth True, owner of NuBe Green and Founder of Western Bridge Art Museum; Sue Colition, Vice President of the Paul G.Allen Family Foundation; Jerry Everard, owner of Neumos; Tim Keck, publisher of The Stranger and Deborah Person,  Managing Director of the Seattle International Film Festival.

To learn more about 12th Avenue Arts and to express your support, I encourage you to visit their website.

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