Carbondale applying for Space to Create |

Carbondale applying for Space to Create

Ryan Summerlin

Carbondale trustees have agreed to apply for a Colorado Creative Industries project called Space to Create, which aims to develop affordable housing and/or workspace for people in creative industries.

Colorado Creative Industries, which officially designated Carbondale as a creative district in June, has recognized a perennial problem with creative districts, said Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts. As these districts become more popular and successful, they also become too expensive for the artists and other creatives to live there. “We all know that story,” said Kimberly.

She described Space to Create as a highly flexible program that enables access to up to $1 million in a Department of Local Affairs grant for the project.

Space to Create has already selected for housing and workspace projects Trinidad, Ridgway and Buena Vista, which are all rural communities similar to Carbondale, said Kimberly.

Space to Create projects also usually include parts that aren’t just affordable housing, such as co-working spaces, she said. “And when we talk about the creative sector, it’s no longer just the artists.”

The town will likely be competing against Crested Butte and Paonia for the project.

The program has a competitive application process, so Kimberly encouraged trustees to throw the town’s hat in the ring.

“I think we have as good a chance as anyone to get chosen,” she said.

Carbondale won’t soon get this opportunity again, as CCI makes its selections regionally, then moves on to another region the next year.

“It would be incredible if we actually succeeded in getting a project, but I think either way it would mean a lot to the community to see us take this opportunity and not let it go by,” said Kimberly.

If it is awarded the project, the town will first have to be willing to dedicate up to $35,000 for a marketing and feasibility study, said Kimberly.

There might also be the opportunity to offset some of that cost with DOLA grants, said Town Manager Jay Harrington.

The Carbondale Creative District is also willing to pitch in $5,000 toward that goal.

And the town could very well develop a project that doesn’t continue with the Space to Create program.

Trustee Katrina Byars said that all the communities that have put together a project for Space to Create but weren’t selected continued with their project regardless “because they had generated so much energy and interest and because it’s so locally relevant.”

Each of these projects has a 40-percent revenue gap, and they rely a lot on low-income housing tax credits, “which may or may not fit into what we’re doing,” said Kimberly. “Low income tax credits are always a challenge in this valley.”

Harrington foresaw Carbondale land costs as the project’s biggest challenge, though he was still supportive of taking the first steps in applying for the projects.

The Space to Create project in Manitou Springs has collaborative manufacturing space with leather cutting machines, welders and fabric printers, said Byars, who had recently visited.

Several trustees called the decision to apply a “no-brainer,” and the board isn’t yet committed to spending the $35,000 if they change their minds later.

“It seems like the program was written for Carbondale,” said Mayor Dan Richardson. “It’s a pretty great opportunity to leverage some of the funding we would have to contribute if we could make something happen, so I think it’s pretty cost effective.”

“I don’t see what we could lose by supporting it conceptually,” said Trustee Marty Silverstein.

The board has recently reviewed town priorities, placing affordable housing at the top. “This is another way to get there,” said Silverstein.

Carbondale will have to submit a letter of intent by March 1, then its application by March 15.

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