El Barrio’s Artspace P.S.109New York, NY
Can you smell the crumbling dirt?
Over the next couple months, Artspace, the New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and our lenders/investors to will execute the legal documents necessary to “close” on PS109. This process parallels a closing on a new home purchase, but given its scale and the number of legal guidelines involved, it is far more complex. Through the closing, we will determine exactly what we are going to build, at what cost, and under what contractual obligations. At this point, we have capital funding commitments in place to complete PS109, but the closing will determine how those commitments are converted to actual cash. We will also reach agreement about our affordable rental/lease fee structure, and the operating expenses that will be set for PS109 as it enters into its programmatic phase.
It is, by many measures, the phase of a project that is least suited to press releases, blogs, and photo ops, but also the most critical for determining how a project is able to deliver on its mission over the long-term. Agreement on a pragmatic, workable closing deal is fundamental to our core goal: creating a new facility that can affordably advance arts-driven community transformation over decades.
This process also illuminates how a project like PS109 differs from a more traditional cultural facilities project, like a new museum, theater or cultural center. PS109 is similar to most Artspace projects in that the vast majority of funding – 80% or more – comes from public sources rather than philanthropic ones. Generally speaking, these resources are not released until all funding is in place, so rather than beginning construction when we have raised 80% (or whatever) of the dollars and using the construction period to drive final fundraising, we are obligated to organize all funding before breaking ground.
The next couple months may be dominated by lawyers and financial partners, but that process also clears that path for our community engagement agenda to reach new heights. As we move into construction, we can talk with artists, arts organizations, and other community partners about PS109 as an actuality on a specific timeline, rather than as a lovely dream lingering out on the horizon. That changes the tone of every conversation.