Flora Lofts Aim to Make Dallas Arts District an Artistic Neighborhood

Artists working multiple jobs to supplement their artistic careers will soon have the opportunity to live in affordable housing in the largest contiguous arts district in the nation.

The Dallas City Council voted to support Flora Lofts, an affordable housing development for working artists in the Dallas Arts District.

The project has faced years of bureaucratic challenges, but with the City of Dallas’ support, construction is slated to begin this summer.

La Reunion TX, a non-profit organization that supports artists’ development and the developer of Flora Lofts, anticipates completion in 2019.

“This project will make sure that for decades to come artists are part of the Arts District,” Catherine Cuellar, Founding Board President of La Reunion TX, said.

Flora Lofts will be a six-story structure located at 2121 Flora Street and will provide 43 affordable units for artists as well as nine market-rate units.

Section 8 housing vouchers will be accepted and units will be set aside for residents with disabilities. Artists must prove financial need for affordable housing.

Flora Lofts will be adjacent to Atelier, a 29-story tower that will include 370 market-rate, luxury apartments. The development will include 12,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space.

Flora Lofts will also include significant flexible space for artists to use for studio art, rehearsals, staged readings and other arts-related activities.

Flora Lofts is a public-private partnership with multiple funding sources including $4.5 million in state tax credits, $14 million from bonds issued by the Dallas Housing Finance Commission, $2.5 million from general obligation bonds approved by the city, and $4.6 million from the City Center Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

“The tax increment financing or TIF dollars contributed to this project are contributed by tax payers within the TIF for the benefit of the TIF. So this is a really wonderful example of what the highest and best use of that TIF money is, not only for the benefit of the TIF but for the whole city,” Cuellar said.

La Reunion TX is modeling Flora Lofts after affordable housing developments for artists created by Artspace, non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, MN committed to creating work/life spaces for artists.

Artspace has properties in more than 30 communities in the United States, including three in Texas: Roderick Artspace Lofts in El Paso, National Hotel Artist Lofts in Galveston and Elder Street Artist Lofts in Houston.

Wendy Holmes, Artspace’s Senior Vice President for Consulting and Strategic Partnerships, explains how affordable housing developments benefit artists and the communities.

“Artists tend to be able to make more money from their art. They end up making the community more beautiful. They become teachers and develop relationships within the community,” Holmes said. “Without creative people, communities lose their soul. Smart cities want to keep their creative people and nurture them.”

Lily Weiss, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, previously served on the faculty of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She hopes seeing professional artists living and working in the Dallas Arts District will inspire her former students’ artistic career trajectories.

“It allows them to have the confidence to do this and to do it in Dallas. We want to keep our own. We don’t want them to think they have to leave to make their art and their lives in another city,” Weiss said.

Cuellar anticipates Flora Lofts will transform the Dallas Arts District. “It’s important to have artists living in the Arts District because without artists, it is not a neighborhood. It’s a destination. Artists are the heart and soul and lifeblood of the Arts District because without them, what would there be on stage or on exhibit,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar notes most patrons park in the Dallas Arts District’s underground garages, never venturing outside the cultural institution they are visiting. She hopes artists living in Flora Lofts will engage patrons and help coax them to explore everything the Dallas Arts District offers.

Artistic collaboration is an important aspect of affordable housing for artists. “They are in branded buildings where people know artists are working and they are collaborating with other artists to create in ways they never imagined,” Holmes said.

Cuellar hopes artists will take advantage of their proximity to cultural institutions, public transportation and artistic colleagues to develop professionally. “This might enable them to make the leap from combining a couple of part-time jobs to being full-time professional artists,” Cuellar said.

The arts community is ready for Flora Lofts. “I’ve been sharing this with every artist I know and they are so excited. With this affordable housing, Dallas will become a place to live, work and play,” Weiss said. “I think it will be a game-changer.”

More: La Reunion and Flora Lofts

Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.

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