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guerrillaRock

rhode island live/work space

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Ok. Now this is very bland, but many people have been talking about this lately, there was even a new article recently in the Providence Phoenix (http://www.providencephoenix.com/features/tji/documents/04565570.asp) , and it has been seen on other parts of this board, but Live/Work Space. Please discuss it here, that way people can focus on it more. Maybe cotuit could help with this? I don't know if you would know how to move this to a better spot on the board but yes, discuss topics of live/work space here, if at all possible.

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Ok. Now this is very bland, but many people have been talking about this lately, there was even a new article recently in the Providence Phoenix (http://www.providencephoenix.com/features/tji/documents/04565570.asp) , and it has been seen on other parts of this board, but Live/Work Space. Please discuss it here, that way people can focus on it more. Maybe cotuit could help with this? I don't know if you would know how to move this to a better spot on the board but yes, discuss topics of live/work space here, if at all possible.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ok, I'd be happy to talk about live/work space.

There have been incredible models of live/work space in Providence that have unfortunately been lost, and I have just been learning more about it and trying to think of some strategies to make it work, but its a pretty tough one.

First, I think the idea of live/work is often confused with "loft." These luxury mill conversions are not really live/work, they are just apartments with brick walls, open floorplans, and exposed ductwork. I guess you COULD work there, but they are still just apartments. Then there is live/work, where someone actually lives in their workshop or studio, and makes it home. Very different.

Then there is the Fort Thunder-type model (which I unfortunatly never experienced), which is really cool - modular space where you can have big shared living spaces, performance space, collaborative space, half-pipe space, whatever, as well as traditional individual "live/work" units. I think this is pretty awesome, which is why it sucks so much that it went away (ok, destroyed by the man, but you know what I mean).

The hard part is making these spaces work. I think the Puente Project at 60 Valley street looks really cool and will begin to bring some of that back, but it seems like it is going to get harder and harder to make a project like this work financially. Unfortunately, we are well past the days when you could get these buildings for dirt cheap to make it work, but it is definitely a desired and needed type of housing in the Providence and Rhode Island mix.

So what to do? Policy change on the city and state level to make these types of spaces legal, and cheapo acquisition of buildings suitable for it. I think the old trolley barn off of Cranston Street would be perfect...

other thoughts...?

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A lot of the legal issues relate to fire code in the post-Station Fire age. You can legally build live work, it is simply extremely expensive to bring these old mill properties to code, especially so if you want to have working artists within them, things like kilns, and metalsmithing, and various chemicals often used in various forms of art are going to be very expensive to make fire safe. The Phenix Mill fire last week shows what can happen when a mill is not fire safe.

I know many people hate the thought of it, but new construction would be a lot cheaper and a lot easier to build to code.

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I know many people hate the thought of it, but new construction would be a lot cheaper and a lot easier to build to code.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

No, I agree. I think in alot of ways, new construction would work great for live/work. There are alot of examples in San Francisco and Seattle of newly constructed live/work. Talk about a fantastic design study...there should be a RISD architecture studio working on this right now! I love the idea of cooperative living, and I think it could certainly work here and in this context...

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You could have a hybrid of new and old. The code restrictions on a mill space would be lesser if no one lived there (this is the Pawtucket model). If one could find a mill space to create work spaces in then build a new building on site as a dormitory/apartment space, you would have almost live/work. You could even take advantage of the mill space to have common social areas as long as no one was sleeping in it.

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There was a law on the books that made it illegal for more than three non-related people to live in the same apartment. It was meant for ad hoc brothels, mainly. Puente ran into this. What they did was, get in touch with Laura Mullen, our handy dandy trusty arts space rep in the state, and together they wrote an additional piece of legislation to help correct this. Now, Puente's new development will have three "nest" spaces of about 3000 sq ft where four or five people can subdivide the space however they want (with a buildout built into the rent). Its a legal version of the Ft Thunder model; live work, for about $11 a sq ft per year.

Cheap space is of course a premium, anywhere in the space. And new construction is possible only if there is land. If it is tear down a mill to make room for new, I say keep the mill and redevelop it. One of the kids from Eagle Square said with a bit of seriousness, maybe artists need to start living in abandonded malls and bix box stores instead. It will be hard to make them "cool" enough for others to price them out. Could Ames be the next Ft Thunder?

And by the way, Cotuit, that last post was brilliant. I'm gonna try to get that idea around.

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Cheap space is of course a premium, anywhere in the space. And new construction is possible only if there is land. If it is tear down a mill to make room for new, I say keep the mill and redevelop it. One of the kids from Eagle Square said with a bit of seriousness, maybe artists need to start living in abandonded malls and bix box stores instead. It will be hard to make them "cool" enough for others to price them out. Could Ames be the next Ft Thunder?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Oh heavens no, we shouldn't be tearing down mills just because they cost too much to renovate, unless they are really and truly too far gone. As densely populated as Rhode Island's urban areas are, there is still plenty of vacant land. I can see Ames being an arts space, how about some new construction in the Apex parking lot?

There was an article in the Globe last week about luxury apartments being built on marginal land (like overlooking the turnpike, or next to a trucking facility), there's marginal land here that can be developed, that isn't yet being pressured into the luxury market. I'm thinking about land around routes 6 and 10, industrial space on Allens Ave., industrial space near the highway and train tracks in North Providence... Spaces along highways can provide wide open buffer zones that allow for good light to reach studios as well.

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One of the kids from Eagle Square said with a bit of seriousness, maybe artists need to start living in abandonded malls and bix box stores instead. It will be hard to make them "cool" enough for others to price them out. Could Ames be the next Ft Thunder?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I absolutely love this idea! I hadn't really thought about discarded big box and malls as art space, but there have been some cool studies done with "Dead Malls" and their redevelopment.

If you could find a quick and easy way to punch openings in the skin, the space would be ideal for all sorts of collaborative living situations. Wow, that would be billions of times better than Wal-mart moving into the Ames on Charles Street, and it would be a fantastic way of dealing with these buildings in the future...

People should be going down to the little Ames on/near Hartford Ave right now and start brainstorming!

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North Main Street is littered with empty boxes, it could become the Providence/Pawtucket Arts District.

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You could have a hybrid of new and old. The code restrictions on a mill space would be lesser if no one lived there (this is the Pawtucket model). If one could find a mill space to create work spaces in then build a new building on site as a dormitory/apartment space, you would have almost live/work. You could even take advantage of the mill space to have common social areas as long as no one was sleeping in it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is a great idea Cotuit...

one problem I really see remains cost. Rehab of mill buildings is running anywhere from $90 to $140 square foot, and new construction, while easier in theory, is definitely moving upwards of $100 to do anything remotely resembling quality. Still overall cost prohibitive, especially if you are reducing net rentable space for common areas.

I think we really need to find some way to reign in costs in order to make any sort of lower to middle income construction feasible - higher density? Yep. I'll still stick with linkage fees and inclusionary unit provisions for any development that a) displaces ANY people, legal or not; and B) builds luxury units. That way we can start funneling some of the money where its really needed...

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Another possible solution would be to get a bldg., bring it up to code, put in new windows, roofing, basic plumbing, electricity, HVAC, and then sell units that the buyer could finish him/herself. They could do the interior framing, drywall, as well as install plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc. In other words, supply raw spaces with no frills.

Maybe this is simplistic and would still be hard to pull off from a cost point of view. I imagine that there are some bldgs in the Olneyville/Promenade area that are not too large or decrepid. I personally would love to see the old GE Base Works plant across Atwells from Eagle Square fixed up in that manner. The little office bldg with the tile roof in the front could be a cafe/gallery. The complex, while shuttered, looks like it's in pretty good shape.

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Mills can be redeveloped for about $50 per foot. This can increase according to the amount of unique demo and remediation necessary. The problem with mill live/work construction costs is that developers don't know when to say no. They over build. Thats the problem with Rising Sun and DownCity. They divide the spaces into all these little rooms. Walls cost money. Luxury finishes cost money. Stainless yuppy appliances are expensive. Did you see the Rising Sun pics in the paper the other day? Finishes fit for a king, not artists. And $15+ per foot rents = small units. Where are you going to make anything? I read that Monohasset is being rehabbed for way over $100'. I can't imagine why.

Most "artist loft" developers build swank, cool, chic fantasies which will become stylistically dated in a few years. If they can fill them the numbers will work, because proforma math is easy. But they are not building for their expressed clients. They are building for the proforma, decorated by their own fantasies of cool. The fact that these units are being filled shows that their is demand. Existing housing stock is occupied and is uniform in architecture. Rehabbed commercial and industrial space allows for both more and unique housing stock. Great. But there are very few artist lofts coming on market. In Providence, "artist loft" is a code word for rehabbed commercial space designed for yuppies who may have creative conceits. Personally, I preffer the loftliving.com definitions of "loft." A "hard loft" is more the artist variety with unifinished surfaces and exposed everything. A "soft loft" is the chic version being built around our fair city, and is designed for well paid proffessional tenants.

Artists need cheap, open space, which is not being built. And many preffer to live among their own kind in a libertarian-creative cacophany. Artists often like to feed on the multiplying effect of eachothers creative energies. This means that the accountant is going to beotch if the painter's stereo is blasting at midnight. So there needs to be isolation from others and density among themselves. Only mills can provide this, but only if there are any left for artists.

(Un)Fortunately, Providence has achieved a sort of singularity, where demand is sparking development, which is increasing demand. Providence is cool. A major part of that coolness, however, is from the large population of artists. Where would we be without artists in funky victorians, Waterfire, RISD, Lupos, Fort Thunder, etc? We'd be Hartford. I would hate to see a supply-demand dynamic take over where artists leave and the city dies back a little, dulls out, leaving only suburban refugees chasing sit-com dreams.

It would be great if more artists developed space for themselves, if developers built for artists, if the city was able to understand and help preserve this vital cultural resource by lessening regulation. Maybe, hopefully.

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Mills can be redeveloped for about $50 per foot. This can increase according to the amount of unique demo and remediation necessary. The problem with mill live/work construction costs is that developers don't know when to say no. They over build. Thats the problem with Rising Sun and DownCity. They divide the spaces into all these little rooms. Walls cost money. Luxury finishes cost money. Stainless yuppy appliances are expensive. Did you see the Rising Sun pics in the paper the other day? Finishes fit for a king, not artists. And $15+ per foot rents = small units. Where are you going to make anything? I read that Monohasset is being rehabbed for way over $100'. I can't imagine why.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with most of what you say...

but I would love to know how you are finding redevelopment costs at $50 a square foot....at Rau Fastener, I got a cost of $140 psf. directly from the architect (Durkee Brown). I think costs are similar to that at Pearl Street. Granted, one of those is a Low Income Housing Tax Credit project, which has ridiculous RI Housing standards to adhere to, and the other is closer to your standard "yuppie" model, but I still see $50 psf. really hard to meet, even stripping away alot of interior finishes....

Another big problem now is acquisition cost. The dudes that have held these places forever are now looking to get their "retirement" funds out of them. = ridiculous bucks. The days of getting these things for pennies is unfortunately over.

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First, welcome Lova... looks like you have some interesting ideas to contribute.

Second, eltron, cotuit and gregw, great ideas. These are the types of ideas we haven't seen yet. You are right, there is plenty of underutilized spaces in this town. North Main Street, perfect example. If mills are hot and become the new, hip space to redevelop, which by the way, hooray for reuse, lets move on to the next big thing. Cheaper, less historically interesting, but more malleable retail/commercial space. The opportunity to more cheaply redevelop this space could be huge, as well as the opportunity to do some great modular, modern architecture.

There are some architects and students who have been working on modular living units using old shipping containers. Imagine the Sears Auto building on N Main turned into a huge floorspace of wood shops, welding, silkscreen and painting studios with 24 or so brightly colored shipping containers on the roof, making a new neighborhood of artists that worked the space below. Could be really brilliant.

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Reading J.'s post about Conley Wharf, I was thinking that there is a lot of under-utilized industrial space between Eddy Street and Route 95 in South Providence. The places directly on the water along Allens may or may not eventually price out the artists, but who wants to but up against the highway? And like I said early, building arts spaces along the highway means that open space which is the highway itself, stays open allowing natual light to reach the spaces.

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Reading J.'s post about Conley Wharf, I was thinking that there is a lot of under-utilized industrial space between Eddy Street and Route 95 in South Providence. The places directly on the water along Allens may or may not eventually price out the artists, but who wants to but up against the highway? And like I said early, building arts spaces along the highway means that open space which is the highway itself, stays open allowing natual light to reach the spaces.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The other area that has a lot of industrial space is in Washington Park between Allens Ave and Eddy Street southeast of 95. Chapman St. is one of the more major cross streets. There's still a lot of jewelry mfg in this area of low slung smallish brick factories dating from the 1920s to 1940s. The buildings are smaller and less old than a lot of the mills in Olneyville and would probably be cheaper to acquire and rehab. Check out some of the properties here:

http://www.provplan.org/pps/results.asp?na...Max=ALL&Submit=

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Hello-

Is Rau Fastener is a federally funded project? If so, you are paying "prevailing wage," which will add some 20% to your costs. Also, I believe that project is detail rich: lots of stuff going in there. When I say $50' I'm talking about big, empty studio units. Big studios are cheap because you are only building one bath and kitchen. Space is almost "free." It's the walls and utilities that costs.

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Hello-

Is Rau Fastener is a federally funded project? If so, you are paying "prevailing wage," which will add some 20% to your costs. Also, I believe that project is detail rich: lots of stuff going in there. When I say $50' I'm talking about big, empty studio units. Big studios are cheap because you are only building one bath and kitchen. Space is almost "free." It's the walls and utilities that costs.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It is federally funded, but (I'm not sure here) I think only a small proportion, maybe 10 percent, is being built under prevailing wage. On Rau, they do have pretty high remediation costs, and it is a full exterior restoration, with tons of brick work and 100% new windows. I'm thinking the windows alone are a pretty big part of the cost.

If you have some specific examples of low-cost conversions, I'd love to hear 'em so I can have a look and see if they could be applicable to some things I may be working on...

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anyone know what is up with the Nicholson File Company and US Rubber buildings on Sims Avenue and Hemlock off of Valley and Dean? They are up for listing on the National Register, which I think almost certainly assures that someone is going for historic tax credits on them...

thats a potentially gigantic project...

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anyone know what is up with the Nicholson File Company and US Rubber buildings on Sims Avenue and Hemlock off of Valley and Dean? They are up for listing on the National Register, which I think almost certainly assures that someone is going for historic tax credits on them...

thats a potentially gigantic project...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hum, very interesting... Action there might help coordinate an effort to make that entire area more pedestrian friendly.

- Garris

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anyone know what is up with the Nicholson File Company and US Rubber buildings on Sims Avenue and Hemlock off of Valley and Dean? They are up for listing on the National Register, which I think almost certainly assures that someone is going for historic tax credits on them...

thats a potentially gigantic project...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I know that the buildings on the triangular parcel bounded by Valley, Atwells, and Eagle that are not part of the Eagle Square development are to be transformed into apartments by Artiste Lofts, the same company that's doing Hope Webbing in Pawt. THese buildings were part of US Rubber as were the ones to the east of Eagle along Valley St.

Not sure about Nicholson File on Acorn St. There are some offices there as well as Capco Steel. That would be a huge project.

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I'm preparing to convert a small mill to live work. I'm going as cheap as possible so I can market to actual artists. A year ago, my quotes came in at $50'. Now I'm looking at $60', maybe even more by the time I have my approvals and the last sub is added in. Inflation of both construction materials and regulations are taking their tolls.

RE hive living, ala Fort Thunder, that would be great. It would reduce the number of kitchens and bathrooms per tenant, thus dramatically reducing development cost. One kit and bath per, say, 6 or 8 people (I would keep it family sized) is much cheaper than 1 set per 2 or 3. The building code needs to change so this is not a big deal. It would lower the sq ft devlpment cost and increase the number of artists per building. This would be a double gain for the city.

I'm gonna start a North Main thread. That st reeks with failed potential.....

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PS - I'm very familiar with the GE lightbulb plant. I've toured it, gotten plans, met with the relevant GE rep....

GE policy is to demolish all closed buildings. The gent I met with, a miserable beotch, says their plan is to scrape the earth clean and sell it to Wallmart or similar strip mall. I informed him it wouldnt happen, he assured me it would. My explanation of the rehab tax credits perked his interest. This was about 2 years ago.

The mill would make a great arts complex. The upper floors are narrow and wrap around light shafts. There is a giant room on the rear parking lot corner facing Harris Ave that would make the ultimate Lupos. Its like 180'x90' with maybe a 30' ceiling, clear span. The floor sits on a forest of columns like you've never seen. Perfect.

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PS - I'm very familiar with the GE lightbulb plant. I've toured it, gotten plans, met with the relevant GE rep....

GE policy is to demolish all closed buildings. The gent I met with, a miserable beotch, says their plan is to scrape the earth clean and sell it to Wallmart or similar strip mall. I informed him it wouldnt happen, he assured me it would. My explanation of the rehab tax credits perked his interest. This was about 2 years ago.

The mill would make a great arts complex. The upper floors are narrow and wrap around light shafts. There is a giant room on the rear parking lot corner facing Harris Ave that would make the ultimate Lupos. Its like 180'x90' with maybe a 30' ceiling, clear span. The floor sits on a forest of columns like you've never seen. Perfect.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

To demolish it they would have to get permission from the Historic District Commission because it's in the Industrial Bldgs District. I'd love to see that place brought to life!

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