(Creative) Space Available: Pilot project pairs artists, vacant storefronts

Downtown Tacoma could see some additional foot traffic thanks to a pilot program that aims to place artists and creative entrepreneurs in several vacant storefronts.

On March 9, City of Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce Metropolitan Development Director Chelsea Levy, and Shunpike Executive Director Andy Fife presented the plan, known as “Spaceworks Tacoma,” to Tacoma City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee.

According to the presentation, commercial real estate broker Eric Cederstrand of Colliers International has agreed to make vacant space at 632 St. Helens and 906 Broadway temporarily available. Occupants would pay for utilities and insurance.

The spaces would be home to three types of creative endeavors:

  • Static art installations, such as window artscapes and one-night events, as well as creative advertising or art for community events;
  • Creative business incubators for entrepreneurs who make retail hand-made items, offer consulting, classes, or design advice, or have a creative home-based business that is ready to expand;
  • Art residencies ranging from one to six months for artists selected through a competitive process. “[The idea is to] give the space to the artists and say, ‘What can you do with [it]?’” said Fife. “Artists would be given the space, but they would need to bring some kind of life to the storefront and not just have things happen in back spaces. Artists would also have access to Shunpike as mentors to help with everything from insurance to contracting.”

Similar projects have been started in Portland, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, and New York City.

The team plans to recruit artists, entrepreneurs, and additional property owners through a community workshop in April, and an outreach program that includes a marketing campaign, Web site, and blog. Shunpike, a Seattle-based organization that helps small arts organizations manage their businesses, will serve as mentors. Organizers hopes to open the first Spaceworks Tacoma storefront in June.

“Property owners benefit by having their spaces active, getting people to come and visit that street, and it may be a marketing opportunity,” said McBride. “Maybe someone will try out a space they didn’t have a chance to try out otherwise and like it.”

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Tacoma City Councilmember David Boe. “I wish there were more than just two locations. But I know you need to have willing landlords. There are so many storefronts. I’m super excited that Eric Cederstrand is interested in helping with 906 Broadway because it’s right across the street from the Pantages Theater and the Farmers Market.”

More information is available online at tacomaculture.org/arts/Spaceworks.asp.

This vacant storefront at 906 Broadway could become a creative space for Tacoma artists thanks to a pilot project set to begin in June. The project, known as "Spaceworks Tacoma," would provide space for art residencies, static art installations, and creative business incubators. "Property owners bene