ELGIN – From retired pottery-making Roman Catholic nuns to artist couples and their children to 26-year-old filmmaker Timothy Voelker, artists of diverse backgrounds are finding a source of stability and creativity thanks to a new affordable housing development in Kane County. Elgin Artspace Lofts, a 55-unit mixed-use building designed for artists and their families to live and work, demonstrates Governor Pat Quinn’s commitment to create affordable housing opportunities for working families, and spur job creation with the construction of new multifamily rental housing.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) today joined developer Artspace Projects, Inc., local elected officials and other public-private partners to celebrate the ribbon cutting of Elgin Artspace Lofts, 51 S. Spring St. Under Governor Quinn, IHDA provided federal and state housing tax credits that generated $10.7 million in private equity to rehab the development of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. An estimated 104 jobs were created.
Voelker, who has been a filmmaker since his teenage years, was searching for a community to live and work, but had a difficult time finding something affordable. “I’ve never lived anywhere where I knew more than my neighbors’ first names. Here when I knock on the door, I am immediately invited in. Even if we don’t have the same art form, we have a common goal: to create,” he said. “This place is incredible; it’s going to help capitalize on people’s creative power. Artists contribute something to a community that is invaluable.”
Elgin Artspace Lofts has helped reinvigorate an area of town that previously had few affordable housing options, and created quality jobs. The historic Sears structure, occupied most recently by Elgin Community College, was completely renovated and linked to a new addition. The redevelopment of this formerly vacant property also helped to restore a portion of the local tax base.
“Providing affordable housing for all working families is a priority for the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) under the leadership of Governor Quinn, and this development furthers this commitment while enabling artists to live near work,” IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said. “In Kane County, IHDA has financed more than 2,300 affordable rental units to ensure low- to moderate-income families can access safe and decent housing opportunities, and strengthens the economy with the creation of quality jobs.”
In addition to the living space, Elgin Artspace Lofts provides 5,874 square feet of retail and community space for arts-friendly businesses and nonprofit organizations. To qualify, residents must be at or below 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), or $35,340 for a two-person household.
Elgin’s downtown has recently gone through a rejuvenation process like many other railroad communities in the Chicago area. Governor Quinn has supported improving downtowns like Elgin through the Illinois Main Street Conference, where the City of Elgin asked Artspace to help it achieve its development goals. As a part of Elgin’s plan to preserve the historic downtown buildings, the development was refurbished out of an historic Sears structure.
On Saturday, Artspace will celebrate the grand opening of a similar development in downtown Waukegan called Karcher Artspace Lofts. Karcher Artspace Lofts is similar to the development in Elgin. It features 36 affordable one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units in the renovated historic Karcher Hotel in the heart of the downtown. IHDA provided federal tax credits that generated more than $6.7 million in private equity for this development. An estimated 54 jobs were created.
These two developments are a part of the wider community of over 40 Artspace residences nationwide, including one that opened on the West Side of Chicago in 2003.
Availability for Artspace apartments in Elgin and Waukegan is limited. For information about the apartments or non-residential art rental space, please visit the Elgin Artspace Lofts or Karcher Artspace Lofts websites, or Artspace.org for general information about the developments.