As you may have read in the past, both my husband and I have studio space in a loft building, the NEST Arts Factory, in Bridgeport CT. I am the managing director of this art space, which is a community of nearly 3 dozen artists and musicians. We found out a year ago that the NEST needed to move out of our current location and have been actively searching since then for a new building to hold all of the studios.
We had a specific set of requirements that we were using to search for a new building. We needed a space larger than our current one, so we wanted a minimum of 30,000 square feet. We wanted to stay in Bridgeport CT. The cost needed to be low and the lease term needed to be long with low raises in rent so we could stay in the space for a very long time and not be priced out of the city we're helping to build up. See: Chelsea, Soho, and Stamford.
An old factory would be ideal. Our executive director, Vic, did not rule out buying a building, but that proved easier said than done. We wanted big windows, high ceilings, and some architectural/industrial character. We need a working freight elevator and sufficient parking.
We have looked at a LOT of old buildings over the last year! So. Many. Buildings.
Big buildings and little buildings, buildings that were strong and sturdy, buildings that were crumbling and missing walls or floors (or roofs!), buildings that were dry and sound, buildings that leaked and smelled funny, buildings that were beautiful but out of our price range, buildings that would cost a large fortune to renovate, buildings that would have only fit a half dozen artists instead of all 36 of us with room to grow, buildings that were full of junk and others that were empty, buildings that were in the process of being developed and others that had been neglected for years, buildings where we would have been one tenant among many, and buildings that would have been all ours. All the buildings. I think I've dreamed in bricks and old timber for the last year.
The trick with any of the buildings that we've looked at is seeing beyond what it currently is to what it could be once we worked our magic on it. Some buildings required more imagination than others.
And while it was realistic to expect that we might be dealing with old lead paint, we didn't want to deal with any major environmental hazards like asbestos or heavy metal contamination. It can be extremely expensive to have those issues mitigated and buildings with heavy metal may never be safe to occupy.
We are fortunate to have many advocates in Bridgeport working with us, cheering us on, and offering advice and help at every step of the way. I am so grateful that so many people are invested in our future success.
We've analyzed a number of the buildings we looked at to see if the finances could work,and to see how we can fit studios into the existing space and where we would need to erect walls.
We've researched ADA requirements, learned all about restoring old elevators, and found out about the different types of replacement window for old factories.
It looks like our long search is at an end! We've signed a lease and now we can get started building partition walls and upgrading mechanical systems.
And for the record, all of these photos were taken at some of the many, many buildings we looked at but are not of the actual building we'll be renting. You'll have to come back for the next steps in our journey and the before photos of the new home for the NEST Arts Factory.
We have a deadline to move from our current location, so this phase of the project (the actual construction) is going to be a whirlwind. I'll be taking you along for the ride and can't wait to see our dreams, plans, and schemes come to fruition.