Sunday, June 21, 2009

Streets and Studios Paved With Green

This weekend has been dominated by journeys to new studio locations. Often enough doubt creeps to the surface and I question why I blow my budget on a studio instead of saving for...insert thing worth saving for. On the one hand it is exciting to think of exploring new neighborhoods and meeting new people, reorganizing my space and jumping into new work. On the other is the rental market that seems still a little stuck in 2007. I don't think the people who are tenants subletting artist studios are coming to grips with the changed market. I am having difficulty choosing a new space, difficulty accepting the terms they offer, and just feeling I am not getting my money's worth. See below for A Brief Explanation of the Artist Studio Market.

Incidentally, I am considering a small studio in the building at the center left.

On my way to Sunset Park to see a few studios, the bus passed this once-paved area which is now a "green street." It seemed to "grow" overnight. I was intrigued by it because of the water management feature I have not yet seen in any NYC Parks street applications.

This is the view from the triangle's point.

Here the water is let in. There's another 50 feet away.

The trench runs the length of this leg of the triangle. I think this captured my attention because it is just the sort of space I would have been playing in as a child. Captive water, an imaginary river, making boats. I like the planting here, but was a little confused by the Stella D' Oro type day lilies. That said, I think it looks pretty good from this angle.

Amongst the plantings was irrigation, another thing I am not sure I've ever seen in a green street planting. I suppose it has something to do with plants that like wet feet, but could potentially suffer drought? Probably over-thinking it.

These two views of the other legs of the triangle are not as pleasurable. Four types of plants here. The shrubs are not doing well -not only the browning ones you see, but many of the larger shrubs in the back are dying. The trees will eventually overtake much of the one leg. I did notice there was irrigation here too. I much prefer the part with the storm water catch. Click on these photos for a bigger view.

And Now...If You So Desire...A Brief Explanation of the Artist Studio Market:

A building owner leases a large square footage space at a low square foot price to a tenant. The tenant then builds it out (some better, some worse), breaking it into many little pieces, and sublets those smaller spaces out to artists. This way the tenant disperses their investment risk amongst many subtenants. On a smaller scale, tenants simply subsidize their own larger space with the profit from several subtenants, while on a larger scale it is intended to be an income generator. Most artists can't afford big spaces and so are willing to pay a much higher cost per square foot for a smaller space.

In Dumbo, where I am for two more weeks, the lord of the land Two Trees sees their rental market as going up (despite an inability to fill retail), and is raising rents. This creates a migration of artists without means (AWMs) to other neighborhoods (Sunset Park, Bushwick, Gowanus, Red Hook) creating demand and opportunity for those initial investing tenants. But, in a faltering economy, people are also packing it in, saving money, losing jobs (calls/txts/emails to me looking for work from artists has increased). Galleries are beginning to close, artists selling have stopped selling. Some artists are leaving studios and we are beginning to see persistent vacancies. This creates a dilemma for the optimistic studio investor.

The tenant's investment is beginning to look like a mortgage that is worth more than the property. People who do have a regular paycheck, but a limited budget like myself, feel less pressure to sign on to high rent tiny spaces (a
friend asked me to sign on to a 90 sq/ft space at $400 just a month ago)(get in now, today's expensive is tomorrow's cheap!). However, I want to save too and these spaces are overpriced. But the tenants would rather maintain vacancies, over dropping prices to keep subtenants. Their business model is built on rising rents. They have some cushion...but how long can they hold out? How long can an artist without a work space?


  1. Wow, that water diversion is amazing.

    I loved playing in places like that, too. Are children still allowed to get muddy?

  2. I thought children were made of mud.

  3. Oh, that's a nice rain garden design!


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