How NYC arts and real estate can collaborate to build creative communities


One way to do that, Hopkins said, would be to create a city directory of all the development sites that have been made available through requests for proposals that would consider arts partnerships. Hopkins encouraged developers to join the boards of arts and cultural organizations and work with them on launching programs, such as purchasing memberships in bulk at a discount and gifting them to tenants who buy or rent apartments.

Crain’s Publisher and Executive Editor Fred Gabriel moderated a panel discussion on identifying new opportunities for the arts and real estate with Laurie Cumbo, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs; Randi Berry, executive director of IndieSpace; Laura Callanan, founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab; and Brian Murray, CEO of Shift Capital.

Cumbo described the perception of real estate partnering with the arts as “the big bad wolf” and said that both industries and city officials must do more to “break down those silos” to motivate greater collaboration and investment.

One way to dispel some of those concerns, Cumbo said, is for developers to offer longer-term leases at favorable rents to arts and cultural organizations so partnerships through development projects don’t represent a “one-time infusion” that ultimately slips away from a community.

“It’s important that we embed these particular benefits to the community for the long term,” Cumbo said.

To spur greater arts investment, Shift Capital’s Murray said, it is critical that the real estate community grapples with the elephant in the room: gentrification.

“As developers, if we’re not embracing the creative economy and the diversity around that because we’re afraid to have a conversation about gentrification, then we’re not going to get there,” he said.

Berry of IndieSpace said it is important that developers collaborate with local arts and cultural groups instead of bringing in new partners that are unfamiliar to communities.

Another discussion moderated by Crain’s real estate reporter Natalie Sachmechi explored projects that are intended to be sustainable for both the local arts groups they work with and their communities. The panel consisted of Josue Sanchez, senior director of development for L+M Development Partners; Sade Lythcott, CEO of the National Black Theater; and Rocky Bucano, president and executive director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum.

For instance, a redevelopment of the National Black Theater’s home at 2033 Fifth Ave., through a partnership with a development team that includes L+M, calls for a new 21-story building with more than 200 residential units, retail space and an upgraded performance venue. Under a new pilot program, the project will set aside a portion of residential units at deeply subsidized rents to support the local arts community.

“These buildings go up, prices go up and artists get pushed out, and all of that labor is built on our backs,” the National Black Theater’s Lythcott said. “So we want to ensure that we can maintain the creative economy within Harlem that we have been supporting for the last 50 years.”

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