My student, Tom Bonner, and I would like some feedback on his project. It follows.
Tom W Bonner
CR Spaces is a non-profit cultural and economic development corporation that acquires foreclosed on properties in blighted, neglected Philadelphia communities, renovates them, and then leases them out to burgeoning artists and arts and cultural organizations at below market rates. CR Spaces will provide fiscal sponsorship for eligible organizations. CR Spaces will manage and maintain all of its properties. When requested or necessary, CR Spaces will assist artists and organizations in finding effective third-party entities that provide capacity building and/or administrative support.
CR Spaces envisions one of the most diverse cultural destinations in the country, and an end to urban blight in Philadelphia. Instead of only going to Philadelphia’s largest cultural institutions, residents and tourists alike will have access to unique offerings throughout the entire city. Neighbors will engage with the arts in a way they have never had the opportunity before, right in their own communities, and in doing so will gain a greater sense of pride in their neighborhoods. The increased activity around CR Spaces will encourage greater public and private investment in these neglected Philadelphia communities, drastically improving the quality of life.
CR Spaces was created to address two challenges facing Philadelphia:
1. The explosion of the arts and cultural sector in the region in the last decade has been both a blessing and a curse. While Philadelphia’s reputation as a destination for arts, culture and heritage has improved, the marketplace has become over saturated with artists, eager to form their own nonprofits. Not only are there too many of these organizations for current demand, but frequently the founders and leaders of these groups have a limited understanding of how to manage nonprofit organizations. As a result, limited sources of contributed revenue are split among more organizations–at least some of which may not be properly equipped to put those resources to the most effective use. This swelling of the sector has also created intense competition for limited spaces to do administrative work, rehearse, perform, or present artwork. The increased demand precipitates a spike in cost, meaning that organizations dedicate additional resources to pay for space that otherwise might go to programming activities.
2. While Philadelphia’s heightened profile as a destination for the arts has been beneficial, much of that benefit has been restricted to affluent, wealthier parts of the city. While Center City is bursting at the seams with arts and cultural activities, huge swaths of the city, which include some of the poorest neighborhoods in the entire country, lack any access to the arts. These neighborhoods suffer from decades of neglect and blight. While some of the major institutions in Philadelphia run community outreach programs, or offer discounted tickets for admission, these efforts might easily be perceived by the intended populations segments as tokenistic. Regardless of outreach or discounts, if the building is too far, if the programming is inaccessible, or if the staff or other patrons are too dissimilar, many members of these neglected communities simply will not attend.
CR Spaces seeks to resolve both of these problems. By acquiring and renovating foreclosed, blighted properties, we make a physical improvement to the existing landscape. The next step, in which the properties are leased to artists or arts and cultural organizations at a below market rate, includes a curatorial process in which CR Spaces works with members of the neighborhood (business owners, religious leaders, home owners, renters, pretty much any interested party), as well as members of the philanthropic community to find tenants whose programming will reflect the neighborhood in which they are located. In doing this, CR Spaces creates spaces where neighbors have the opportunity to come together and engage with art that is affordable and accessible. In providing fiscal sponsorship for eligible organizations, CR Spaces helps regulate and nurture potential non-profit organizations that may not necessarily have the knowledge or capacity to manage that structure. Because CR Spaces is primarily a real estate development corporation with very limited programming activity, it does not provide administrative support, or leadership training. Fortunately, there are a number of these resources already in Philadelphia. CR Spaces works with those existing organizations to create productive relationships with tenants. Finally, CR Spaces maintains all properties. In doing this, we assume a significant cost, allowing tenants to dedicate maximum resources to fulfilling their missions.
CR Spaces will work with property owners (most likely banks) to acquire its properties. We believe that banks will be interested in donating these properties in exchange for the opportunity to remove the blighted properties from their balance sheets, and tax deductibility. Because CR Spaces engages in very little programming beyond the renovation and management of property, its costs and full-time staff are minimal. A reliable earned revenue stream to fund the maintenance of properties is expected from rental fees. In addition, CR Spaces will work closely with Philadelphia’s vibrant foundation sector and most importantly, seek the financial support of small business owners and other stakeholders in the neighborhoods where CR Spaces is active.