Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

BTMFBA Chronicles: Seattle coffee shop raises money to buy its building

In writing comments on the DC Cultural Plan draft, while the survey of current conditions wasn't particularly detailed, it was surprisingly direct about the reality of DC's high value real estate environment making it difficult for arts organizations and low paid artists to compete for space for working and living.

Given that excepting extraordinary events, building prices only go up, they don't fall, the recommendations for action in the Cultural Plan aren't particularly direct and come up short.  Typical of many final planning documents produced by the office, you don't get any sense of urgency that not only is action required, that now is the time to act.

For example, in reading about the history of the BART transit system, they had an early director who always made the point that "the cheapest time to build transit is now because costs of land, labor and materials only go up."

I have some writings that get directly to the point concerning facilities and spaces for arts and culture: buy the f* building.

-- "BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building
-- "BTMFBA revisited: nonprofits and facilities planning and acquisition"
-- "BTMFBA: artists and Los Angeles"
-- "When BTMFBA isn't enough: keeping civic assets public through cy pres review

In terms of making a direct and obvious recommendation about the necessity of buying buildings (and in the case of artist/workforce housing, building it), and creating "culturally-focused" community development corporations to do so, the DC Cultural Plan fails as there is no such recommendation.

The West Seattle blog reports ("'It is a home. It is YOUR home’: C & P Coffee announces it’s raised the money ‘to purchase and preserve the coffee house’") on how C&P Coffee, faced with their landlord's putting the building up for sale, managed to organize a successful crowd funding campaign through GoFundMe and is buying the building.

Model leases?  Another element of this from a learning standpoint is that somehow C&P had a clause in their lease giving them the right of first refusal to purchase the property. In fact, the property owner had accepted another offer, but the coffee shop was able to assert their contractual rights and buy the property.

I don't know if there is a document out there recommending master lease clauses designed to best protect the interests of independent retailers, arts organizations, and other nonprofits.

There should be. I know that Maryland has the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization and it's worth checking in with them to see.

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