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Friday, January 15, 2021

Near Southside to study creative business incubator idea

Fort Worth’s Near Southside wants to capture the imagination and retain the creative talents responsible for it.

On Wednesday, Near Southside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIF) board members unanimously approved a resolution to begin the process of establishing a creative business incubator in the district.

The TIF will fund a development study that will outline strategies, partnerships, development concepts and implementation steps for the incubator(s).

Artspace, a Minnesota-based nonprofit arts organization, will be hired to conduct the assessment, which is to cost about $37,000. The final report is expected to be complete by summer 2020.

Near Southside, Inc. would then work in partnership with Artspace as well as other local partners to build and operate a creative business incubator, affordable spaces for artists to live and work.

“I hear regularly from artistic folks in the Southside (who) want to stay in Southside and this is the thing they point to all the time,” board chairperson Ann Zadeh said. “It’s the fear of being priced-out and not having these sorts of creative places.”

A prototype concept presented to the board includes a three-story, 33,600 square-feet apartment building situated at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Crawford Street. The building has 42 individual units, about 800 square feet in size.

A different building houses 10 additional loft-style residential units and about 7,000 square feet of office space and 3,000 square feet of gallery and events space.

A third building has about 15,000 square feet of space for restaurant and retail use.

“This study will not be tied to only that site, although that site is on our candidate list,” said Mike Brennan, president of Near Southside Inc., the nonprofit that helps manage the area’s development. “The idea is to do a rethinking of a prototype layout that will be adaptable to different locations.”

Brennan said estimation on the total cost of the project can only be made once the study concludes.

Artspace adheres to affordable housing guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development while setting its rents, which would vary depending on the neighborhood.

The developer of live and work artist housing currently has 52 properties operating in the U.S.

The Arts Council of Fort Worth showed its support to Artspace and believes the initiative will benefit the Near Southside businesses, developers, artists, patrons and residents.

“As Fort Worth continues to grow, this is the perfect time to invest in such a model that will fuse the creative workforce within the landscape of Fort Worth,” the art council’s president Karen Wiley wrote in a letter to the TIF Board.

And the local art and creative business community are regarding the prospect to be just as promising.

Local art organizations and businesses, like Art Room and SiNaCa Studio, have agreed to take part in and foster the Artspace study.

“This is something that the creative community in our area has been looking for a long time,” SiNaCa Studios founder Clifton Crofford said. “I’m very excited.”

SiNaCa Studios, located on Magnolia Avenue in Near Southside, is a gallery and a center for art glass education.

“Coming from an arts professional in Near Southside, this is a big deal,” Crofford said about the incubator. “This is a very important moment, moving forward.”

Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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