P.S. 109


Funding Received: 2011
New York, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
June 21, 2012

Vested stakeholders

Artspace’s first project in New York City, El Barrio's Artspace (PS109) will transform East Harlem’s historic and long-vacant P.S. 109 into a mixed-use facility containing 90 affordable live/work units for artists and their families, plus 10,000 square feet for arts and culture organizations.

The project is a partnership with El Barrio’s Operation Fightback (EBOF), an organization that provides the East Harlem neighborhood with vital housing and social services. When completed, the project will contribute to many local community development goals, including historic preservation, affordable housing, economic development, green design and food equity - further underscoring El Barrio's reputation as a Latino cultural capital.

Of the $52 million project’s development budget, 6 percent came from charitable gifts, and ArtPlace’s generous $1 million grant allowed Artspace to close the gap and move the project forward.

Shawn McLearen, director of properties for Artspace, discusses what the project’s impact will be on the community:

MCLEAREN: The challenges that have resulted from the economic downturn have generated at least as many opportunities for genuine inter-sector partnerships, and a rethink of the role that the arts and creative industries can play within communities.

The Artspace process is a unique non-profit, inter-sector real estate model that brings the arts’ capacity as an engine of community development into partnership with civic leaders and their respective agencies to address multiple agendas – including economic development, affordable housing, historic preservation, and sustainable cultural infrastructure – by cultivating stakeholders in the vision that the community has set for itself.

Across the country, we have community partners who are essentially leading our collective efforts to create a sustainable, replicable model for permanently affordable space in which artists, their families, and cultural organizations can live, work and contribute to the community around them. While every community faces challenges and opportunities, it takes local leadership to weave them together in a manner that ensures community development is sustainable over time.

As we look back over the arc of this project, and think about the unique challenges and opportunities that the community has faced, it's been particularly rewarding to see our public and private partners respond with an increased level of advocacy for the role that the arts and creative industries can play.

Taken together, these collective partnerships further empower a community's capacity to achieve their own goals. This, in turn, has translated into additional financial tools, which can be brought to bear and ensure these projects are as community oriented as we all need them to be – both now, and in the long run.

The result is an empowered community, and vested stewardship in a project that has a community development agenda. It is a sustainable, more replicable model for permanently affordable space in which artists, their families, and cultural organizations can live, work and contribute to the community around them.

BREAKING NEWS: After years of planning, PS109 has reached its financial closing.  In effect, this means is that all the approvals and actual dollars are in place to start construction. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on October 2nd, 2012. Congratulations to the Artspace team!

PHOTO:  Standing next to El Barrio's Operation Fightback Executive Director Gustavo Rosado is Johnny Colon, a life-long resident of El Barrio and music legend, who stopped by to see the PS109 building and lend his support. Photo by Shawn McLearen.