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Artists camp out for shot at warehouse lofts

Textile artist and musician Alison Sharkey emerges from her children’s play tent as she waits to apply for an apartment at the Warehouse Artist Lofts on Tuesday. Sharkey planned to camp out at the headquarters of the Capitol Area Development Authority, 14th and P streets, to be among the first to file their applications at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Textile artist and musician Alison Sharkey emerges from her children’s play tent as she waits to apply for an apartment at the Warehouse Artist Lofts on Tuesday. Sharkey planned to camp out at the headquarters of the Capitol Area Development Authority, 14th and P streets, to be among the first to file their applications at 8 a.m. Wednesday. aseng@sacbee.com

The Warehouse Artist Lofts may be the best deal in town for low- and moderate-income writers, painters and musicians.

The 116 units on R Street are being built in a prime location in midtown Sacramento in a historic warehouse and an adjoining new building that replicates its vintage look. They feature huge floor-to-ceiling windows. And for those who qualify, rents are a fraction of market rates, starting at $360 a month for a studio and $535 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The catch is that demand will likely far exceed supply, so would-be residents started lining up a day early to have the best chance at qualifying for one of the prized units. There are 1,400 people on the interest list for 116 units, 86 of which will have income-adjusted rents.

“It’s finally something that makes sense for somebody living below the poverty level, which is historically the case with artists,” said Alison Sharkey, a professional cellist and textile artist.

Sharkey was second in line at the offices of the Capitol Area Development Authority at 14th and P streets. Representatives of CFY Development, the firm building the lofts, will start accepting time-stamped applications at 8 a.m. Wednesday .

“It’s first come, first serve,” said CADA spokeswoman Karen Ulep. There would be extra security and a portable toilet for those camping out, she said. Those first in line come Wednesday morning will be handed numbered tickets, she said.

Sharkey brought along a $20 children’s play tent to spend the night in, and was accompanied by several friends also hoping to score apartments. They were among the half dozen artists who had staked out spots by 4 p.m. Tuesday. More were expected to arrive through the night, some with food and musical instruments.

“I haven’t slept in two days because I’m so nervous about this,” Sharkey said. “I probably won’t sleep tonight.”

The lofts, commonly called WAL, are still taking shape on the block of R Street between 11th and 12th streets. The project consists of a renovated century-old brick warehouse and an adjoining new building that mirrors its boxy design and big square windows.

There will be 13,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, restaurant seating on the loading dock, and a 9,000-square-foot market hall filled the kiosks of artists and vendors, said developer Ali Youssefi with CFY.

Priority for the 116 residential units upstairs will go to literary and creative artists – a tenant preference allowed by law, Youseffi said. All the one-, two- and three-bedroom units are reserved for those who make 30 percent to 60 percent of the area’s median income.

A three-bedroom apartment will start as low as $535 a month for those who make 30 percent of the area’s median income or $20,610 for a family of four. Market-rate studios, some with soaring ceilings and sleeping lofts, will rent for $1,100 to $1,250 a month. Similar studios will start at $360 for low-income tenants. (For more information go to www.rstreetwal.com.)

The $41.5 million project promises to be a key feature of the city’s R Street Corridor, a once-gritty warehouse district being redeveloped with shops, restaurants and apartments.

WAL is envisioned as a place where artists can live, collaborate and display their work. The new building has a performance hall, a large outdoor courtyard, and a rooftop barbecue area, among other amenities.

Jose Di Gregorio, a local painter, said he was looking forward to the opportunity of “being in an incubator of other artists, a place where you can actually have a beer together.” He also said he wanted a safe and stable home to help raise his two daughters, 7 and 5. He’s currently staying with a friend in midtown.

Janine Mapurunga, 33, a self-employed photographer, was first in line. She said she wanted an affordable place to live and to practice her craft. She currently rents a room in the Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento for $775 a month, but is hoping to pay between $464 and $619 for a two-bedroom apartment at WAL.

“It’s a deal for someone not working as a full-time artist,” but a fair price for a single person making an artist’s modest income, she said.

A few spots in line behind her was James Jansen, a painter in his 60s who had brought a portfolio of his work that included paintings of skeletons cavorting in front of brightly colored buildings.

“It’s folk art with a background of Day of the Dead,” Jansen said.

Jansen said he’d been staying with his sister in West Sacramento after losing his steady income and moving from the San Diego area. He was planning to spend the night on the sidewalk alongside his younger colleagues because he didn’t want to miss out.

“It’s the only practical thing I can afford and feel respectable,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.

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