JAC Flats inches toward getting started in late 2012

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Formally known as Jackson Flats, nicknamed JAC Flats, the long-awaited artist live/work space planned for 18-1/2 Avenue and Jackson Street NE, got another boost from the City of Minneapolis and the federal government last week, but not quite enough to “get in the ground,” according to Greg Handberg, properties senior vice president for Artspace. It will take one more round of the help, which comes in the form of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, to start building, and that’s not expected until next year.

Originally designed as a condominium project, it’s now going to be a rental building, owned mostly by Artspace with the Northeast Community Development Corporation remaining a partner.

“We’re the managing partner,” Handberg said.

(Artspace owns live/work spaces and commercial art spaces all over the country, including the new Cowles Center in downtown Minneapolis, the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in South Minneapolis [yes, that’s fire arts, in which high temperatures are used in the artistic processes] and the Grain Belt Studios in Northeast.)

The latest allocation of tax credits for the project was more than $285,000. The tax credits continue for 10 years, Handberg said, and are sold to a financial partner, which is usually a bank, at a discount of about 10 percent. So the project gets a bunch of money up front, and the financial partner gets tax credits for 10 years.

Artspace is a nonprofit, and the entities that buy the tax credits are “looking to reduce their tax liability,” he said. “They maintain a limited-partner ownership” in the project, Handberg said. “When the tax credits go away, the investor partner goes away as well,” he said, and the building belongs to the original developers.

While the Jackson Flats project has required some patience, “it’s not the longest,” in Artspace’s experience, he said. The newly-completed Cowles Center has been a work in progress since 1998, he said.

It’s typical, he said, for projects to take three to five years.

The good news, he said, is that the City of Minneapolis continues to support the project (last year’s tax-credit allocation was $50,000), and it’s reasonable to expect that next year’s allocation will provide enough to begin the construction work.

The four-story building will have 35 rental live/work units with 35 underground parking spaces, a gallery and a flexible community space. According to Artspace’s web site, “The building has been designed to provide all of the ingredients for effective and innovative artist live/work space, including oversized doors, 10’ and 12’ ceiling heights, concrete floors, industrial strength plumbing fixtures, high quality natural lighting, sound privacy, good ventilation systems, underground parking, and industrial strength finishes and furnishings throughout. Common spaces within the building will provide critical additional amenities for artists, including common space to accommodate exhibition and community activities that are critical to the creation of an Arts Center.”

The projected total cost of the project is $8,847,561, according to City of Minneapolis information, including land acquisition costs of $1,511,143 and direct construction costs of $5,571,250. They expect rents to range from $430 to $895 for one bedroom, $512 to $1,071 for two bedrooms and $1,022 – $1,237 for three bedrooms.

For more information, see www.artspace.org/properties/jacksonflats/.