Miami city commissioners have chosen to give a sizable federal grant to help fund an organization that supports city artists.
At their latest meeting, commissioners allocated $2 million to the Bakehouse Art Complex Inc., a Florida not for profit corporation, to help pay for major improvements to its historic building at 561 NW 32nd St. in the Wynwood Arts District.
The complex is in an old Art Deco bakery and houses local contemporary artists, with studios and galleries open to the public.
The resolution was sponsored by Commission Chair Christine King.
The money is from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
The city received American Rescue Plan Act funding to address Covid-19 and its impact on public health as well as address economic harms to households, small businesses, nonprofits, impacted industries, and the public sector.
The grant will help Bakehouse “undertake repairs and renovations to the structure and envelope” of its building, the resolution says.
A unanimous resolution had the commission “approving and confirming the city manager’s finding and recommendation that competitive negotiation methods and procedures are not practicable or advantageous to the city … (in this instance, and) waiving the requirements for said procedures.”
Bakehouse submitted a funding request to the city for ARPA funds in order to begin its repairs and renovations.
A city staff background memo on the fund request reads in part: “Bakehouse Art Complex is the only artist-purposed, non-profit-owned site of its kind and size in Miami’s urban core. It plays a major role in addressing a significant gap in the city’s cultural ecosystem, affordable spaces where artists can create, live, and engage with each other and with the greater community.”
“As real estate prices continue to rise, and with it the need for affordable work and living spaces for artists, it has the potential to leverage its land holdings in a way that can significantly increase the organization’s impact,” the memo reads.
Staff says redevelopment of Bakehouse ensures artists and art making will have permanence in the city, where real estate costs make this increasingly challenging.
The memo continues: “Due to the unique aspects of the Bakehouse addressing the need of the art community by providing a space where artists can create, it would be advantageous for the city to expedite the allocation and waive procurement requirements at this time.
“The Bakehouse Art Complex will undertake repairs and renovations to the structure and envelope of the organization’s existing building including addressing and upgrading electrical infrastructure, structural repair and remediation, life-safety issues, making necessary repairs needed for the 40-year recertification process, roof replacement, installing hurricane-impact window upgrades, updating building technology, and ensuring compliance with current building codes,” it reads.
In a letter to the city, Cathy Leff, director of Bakehouse Art Complex, wrote: “We believe with $2 [million], we can address, from now and over the next 24 months, immediate needed structural work and roof repairs. The remaining funds needed to cover other identified work will come from philanthropic donations and revenue derived when we finalize our partnership agreement to redevelop the 1.55 acres of our underutilized 2.3-acre campus.
“On that site, we hope to add critically needed affordable and workforce housing for artists and community members and rebuild some of our public community amenity and educational spaces,” she wrote.
Ms. Leff said about 70% of Bakehouse artists make less than $40,000 yearly.
“Several have lost their jobs and homes during the past two years as a result of the covid pandemic and are struggling to make ends meet. Three of our artists just this week lost their housing due to the doubling of their rent.
“We all know that the influx of new money, new residents, and new businesses to Miami during covid have impacted the cost of real estate, which has had a significant and detrimental impact on the communities we serve.
“If we wish to retain creative talent in Miami, all of which aligns with the City’s technology agenda, Bakehouse can be a model for and part of the solution for addressing affordability in both work and living environments and continue to provide workspace security and affordability to artists,” Ms. Leff wrote.
Bakehouse opened in 1985 to provide a permanent and affordable working home to artists of merit with financial need.
Community Development Block Grant funds from the city and Miami-Dade County were awarded then to help retrofit the abandoned bakery and convert it to a center of cultural production.
“The organization was intended to and has helped provide stability to a declining neighborhood as well as serve the community through free access and educational and cultural programming,” said Ms. Leff.
Source: Miami Today