Thursday, May 30, 2013
Creative Arts: Catalyst for Economic Development

Jim Abdo’s first experience with creative arts as a draw was a building on H St. which he leased to Artomatic for one month. Before Artomatic came there was little people traffic to the area. Once Artomatic arrived people were drawn to the events and businesses in the area benefited from the increased activity.

He and Toby Bozzuto partnered on the development of Brookland an 8.9 acre site near Catholic University which has a creative Arts Walk where artists work and sell their art and an Arts Flex Building. Both agree this has become a property with soul and life. 

Toby has been involved in other successful art projects, such as the Fitzgerald Bldg. in Baltimore. The value of that building increased in two years while other buildings in the area remained the same.

Currently Harvard is doing a study of how the arts can increase the value of real estate.

Juanita Hardy profiled the accomplishments of Cultural DC: the Atlas Performing Arts Center which opened in 2005, GALA Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli and the Monroe St. Market Artist Studios which will open summer of 2013. 

Juanita addressed the issue of displacement. Cultural DC themselves was faced with the problem after their 10 year lease was up, the increased value of the building meant that their rent would increase dramatically if they stayed. They are currently in the process of buying their space instead of leasing. Many arts centers face the same issue. They bring value and growth to the area but since they are often non-profits, the rental increases over time force them to leave.

Victor Hoskins noted that although he loves the arts, he is a numbers man.  He has formed a Creative Economy group to look at how to use public money to integrate the arts into the District development.

Jim Abdo noted that incentives thru zoning can be as effective a stimulator for developers as actual funding.