The City of Trinidad’s recently announced that its Space to Create Commons Project is accepting bids for the buildout of the approximately 20,000-square-foot area on the first floor of the Artspace Main Street Lofts.
And City of Trinidad Economic Development Director Wally Wallace could not be more excited. His love for this project is evident as is his love for Trinidad in general as his ideas seem to come one right after another when talking about what the city’s future could be.
“I have had a lot of calls from people interested in this space,” he said.
The Space to Create Commons is between Main and First streets and Convent and Beech streets at 210 to 228 W. Main St. Major work on the project involves redeveloping and restoring three interconnected buildings into retail, office and community spaces.
Those involved with the Minnesota-based, nonprofit Artspace, which headed the architectural design and construction of the space, said all 13 lofts on the second floor have been leased. Twenty-eight brand-new units have been built and are currently being leased on Elm Street.
Now it’s the city’s responsibility to fund and finish the first floor on West Main — minus an Artspace office and some open areas on the east end of the project — by Dec. 31, 2021.
Space to Create project
Space to Create is a Colorado initiative. It offers affordable living and working spaces for artists and other creatives. Trinidad was chosen by the state to host its demonstration project.
Major players for the undertaking include or have included former governor John Hickenlooper’s office, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Colorado Creative Industries, The Boettcher Foundation, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, History Colorado, The Gates Family Foundation, The Colorado Housing Finance Authority, Artspace and the city of Trinidad.
The first-floor buildout will cost just over $1 million to complete. A grant from the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade is helping pay for part of that cost. If the space is not finished by Dec. 31 “we’ll lose the grant,” Wallace said.
Update on the Commons project
Wallace discussed the details of creating the Commons project space and his hopes for future occupants on Feb. 5, the same day the bid announcement was first published. He hopes that they can have all bids in by the end of February, so he can present something to the City Council by mid-March.
Wallace said he plans to move from his City Hall office by the end of February to one in the Commons. He just needs the Internet to be functional. SECOM will be the provider.
“We’ve wired the entire building [for the internet],” he said. And after a transmitter exchange deal with SECOM, free Wi-Fi will be available everywhere downtown.
Wallace will share a space with the Corazon de Trinidad Creative District. Behind Wallace’s and the district’s offices will be a co-working space with spaces to rent for an hour, a day, a week or more. A small kitchen will also be installed soon.
“Every part of the Commons will spill into the next space,” Wallace explained.
If one peeks into the windows of the large front garage doors situated in the middle of the block, a huge, very empty area can be seen. In this space, Wallace envisions many different scenarios.
“Retail carts to rent, an art gallery, a portable stage,” he said. “We want this to be a family friendly area. This is for the community after all.” A leasable kitchen is included in the plans along with a conference room.
There is room for a café, too, and the outdoor patio for it is already done. Space will be available for community workshops and classes, too.
“We want to include the community in this space and have lots of public events,” Wallace emphasized. “There’s this big garage door that opens and is welcoming.”
He explained that often people will only visit downtown for special festivals, such as Santa Fe Trail Days. He said he hope the Commons area will change that.
Storefront retail stores will be welcome, too. The largest retail space, Wallace said, is where the old Aeillo Bank was located.
“We can’t sell liquor here, though, unless a restaurant has a liquor license or a distillery or brewery has a tasting room,” Wallace said. Existing nearby stores that sell liquor have priority, according to the law.
That said, the back part of the garage area will offer space for business incubators. The National Business Incubation Association defines business incubators as “a catalyst tool for either regional or national economic development.”
The city will help new and startup companies with their development by providing office space and some consulting. Part of the 9,000-square-foot garage will be set aside for this program, which could eventually include a concept using shipping containers as businesses, where entrepreneurs can try out their ideas, Wallace said.
Leasable areas in the Commons will be available to businesses not only based on the availability of space but the quality of the business plan, too. According to the Commons’ business development plan, other factors to be taken into consideration include the number of jobs that could be created and the expected tax revenue. Business application forms and many more details — including what type of retail stores are sought and what the breakdowns for monthly rent might be can be requested from Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the bidding: Construction companies interested in the project can also contact Wallace for more information by email or by phone at 719-846 9843, Ext 140.
As of last month, Artspace, which is headquartered in Minnesota, had a total of 54 projects across 28 states with 15 new projects under predevelopment. Projects completed to date represent an investment of over $700 million and affordable space for more than 2,000 families and 600 businesses.
“Affordable” is the key word.
Artspace in Trinidad is one of the 54 projects. According to Artspace’s director of real estate development, Andrew Michaelson, they are weathering the pandemic “pretty well.”
“We feel pretty good about where we are” with the projects, he said. “We’ve always conducted a lot of our business through calls or Zoom, so we weren’t traveling a lot anyway.”
Michaelson, who knows Trinidad well, said that those involved in working with the Trinidad properties were invigorated by the city’s history. They knew the second floor was going to be made livable; however, he said, the first floor of the project was not going to make suitable housing, so that is how the Commons area came to be.
“The classic Old West store fronts and the old structures in the area” were the incentives to see the first floor “activated,” Michaelson said.
“Working with this community has been an honor,” he said. “The learning curve for this was very steep, and Trinidad really has stepped up. They made this entire project a reality.”
Lucas Koski is Artspace’s director of asset management and leads the leasing process for the residential studios in Trinidad. In early December, he explained, the leasing company Silva Markham ended its relationship with Artspace. Shelton Residential took over the responsibilities.
This is low-income housing. However, what studio residents pay here differs from other Artspace studios throughout the United States.
Michaelson explained it this way: “Rents are set by income level and household size by HUD so that the housing cost paid is not more than 30 percent of household income for each AMI band. Using round numbers, if the monthly household income limit is $1,000 then the rent for that unit would be $300.” AMI stands for area median income.
Said Koski, “It’s decided literally city by city, place by place.”
The specific requirements to live in a studio residence is explained in Trinidad’s Artspace application. For more information on the application process, those interested should email email@example.com or phone 719-422-8047. Units are still available for lease at the Elm Street studios.
As Artspace and the Space to Create Commons area become permanent city fixtures Michaelson said, “It has been wonderful to see this project become a reality.”