Powerhouse legal, financial, and business district

From the Jersey Journal:


City officials say they are struggling to find qualified applicants for new affordable or market-rate live/work artist studios in the downtown Powerhouse Arts District.

The problem isn’t a shortage of artists – the city’s Artists Certification Board has 470 on their waiting list for work/live space – but rather, city officials say, they don’t have enough artists who qualify for mortgages or others drop out during the qualification process.

As a result, city officials say, they’re allowing more and more middle-income people from other occupations to live in the developments being built in a six-block area intended to be Jersey City’s haven for the arts community.

But artists and preservation groups say it’s another instance of city officials abandoning the principles outlined in the Powerhouse Arts District Redevelopment Plan it adopted in 2004, and caving into the pressure from big development interests.

It’s impossible to know for certain how many of the 334 market-rate studios in the district have gone to artists, as developers aren’t obligated to report how those units were allocated.

But Robert Antonicello – director of the city’s Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce – says that answers from a focus group conducted with artists over the summer revealed that many felt isolated because their neighbors aren’t fellow artists, but rather professionals from the legal, financial and business sectors.

The zoning under the redevelopment plan was designed to create a community of artists within a historical district of former warehouses. Ten percent of the units for new projects were set aside for low-income artists.

The latest development with the Powerhouse Arts District is a proposed high-rise development from Toll Brothers. The developer is asking the city to approve a project with 950 market-rate apartments in three towers, one of which soars to 395 feet.

The developer says it is looking to attract more people from the performing arts, with a plan that includes a 550-seat theater, art spaces and rehearsal rooms – but just 12 live/work artists studios. And only one of the 12 artist units would be considered affordable housing – and if a certified artist didn’t get it, it would go to someone else.

“You can’t leave affordable housing vacant waiting to make it available for someone living outside Jersey City,” Antonicello said. “It is not fair to people who have lived in Jersey City all their lives.”

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