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La Reunion Takes Lead in Artist Housing
by Stephen Becker 27 Feb 2013

The Dallas City Council will vote today on whether it will endorse an affordable housing project for artists in the Arts District. And a small nonprofit is critical to making the project a reality.

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The Dallas City Council will vote today on whether it will endorse an affordable housing project for artists in the Arts District. And a small nonprofit is critical to making the project a reality.

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Since 2005, La Reunion TX has dreamed of building an artist residency program, a space where a rotating group of painters and sculptors could live and work together. The idea is to build it in West Oak Cliff, on a wooded property where the group regularly holds exhibitions and events.

Now though, the organization could also be involved in creating permanent housing for artists. Right in the middle of downtown Dallas.

That’s because it is serving as the nonprofit partner for the Flora Street Lofts. The proposed development includes 39 affordable housing units, guaranteed to be rented to artists. And unlike an art residency, there’s no time limit on how long they can stay.

The partnership is a plus for the developers, because working with a non-profit like La Reunion increases the chances of receiving state grants for low-income housing. Still, the move may sound to some like La Reunion is changing its direction.

But both former and current board members say the venture makes sense.

“I think everybody is trying to do a better job with connecting with various constituencies. And in La Reunion’s case, it’s fairly neighborhood oriented,” says Catherine Horsey, La Reunion’s former interim executive director. “The Arts District is a neighborhood. It doesn’t have any artist housing. Therefore, you can say that this is something that really does further their mission.”

The district currently has two housing developments – One Arts Plaza and Museum Tower.

“But those are at a level of affordability or cost that very few working artists can afford,” says La Reunion president Robert Meckfessel. He estimates that artists would pay no more than $800 to rent one of the Flora Lofts.

“So we’re very excited that we can add this additional layer and level of richness to the Arts District that really goes back and fulfills the original vision that the city opted for back in the ’70s and ’80s,” he says.

If the project is built, La Reunion will assemble the advisory board responsible for approving resident applications from artists. From there, Meckfessel says involving the resident artists in community outreach would be a top priority.

If the City Council approves the measure Wednesday, the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs will consider Flora Lofts’ low-income housing tax credit application in the spring. For a look at artist renderings of the lofts, see our post from last week.

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