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East Lansing considering collaboration with Artspace on affordable housing for creative types

Saper Art Gallery and Custom Framing
Posted at 7:10 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 20:04:48-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The city of East Lansing is considering a project called Artspace that would create affordable housing for artists and anyone else who considers themselves creative.

Artspace is a non-profit developer out of Minnesota that focuses on affordable housing for people with a creative background. Saper thinks the project would be a good addition to the city.

“There’s a great need for housing in this area that’s below market pricing for those that have incomes that are below the norms," said Roy Saper, who owns Saper Galleries in East Lansing.

“Joan Hunault who was mayor many years ago declared this city the city of the arts," Saper said. “And over a period of time, it struggled, it ebbed and flowed as art related ventures have come and gone, but there’s such large number of arts activities that continue.”

He finds the Artspace development "an interesting concept."

Saper Art Gallery
Saper looks at a piece of art hanging in his gallery.

East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg said East Lansing's housing market is imbalanced.

“We have a lot of student-focused housing that is really geared towards temporary residents," Gregg said. "Students don’t even typically stay in the same apartment year to year.”

She wants that to change by offering a more permanent affordable housing option.

Artspace project
A photo of one of the artspace projects already in Michigan.

“We have a lot of small short-term rentals, geared towards that transient population and then we have a lot of higher-end houses that are at the top end of the market locally," Gregg said. "And then we don’t have a lot of places in between for people who are just starting out.”

Gregg said finding a developer that doesn't use profit as the only motivating factor had been a challenge. Until they found Artspace.

“Artspace is focused on the creative class so it’s really geared towards art, performance, all of the different kind of things you get with a creative economy,” Gregg said.

Saper Art Gallery
A statue in Saper Art Gallery.

Artspace has been gathering community input from people in and outside of the city.

“Just kind of gauging the interest in this type of space in East Lansing which so far seems very positive so I think that we are at this point moving forward with them,” Gregg said.

The city is still early in the planning process and Gregg said where it might be built and how the partnership will be structured is still up in the air.

Saper said taking a collaborative approach before building a project is a good thing.

“That’s totally different. It’s smart," Saper said. "They’re coming in saying this is not what we want to do but rather ask the community what would you like us to do.”

Saper Art Gallery
Saper examines a sculpture in his gallery.

He thinks this is another step in the right direction for artists near East Lansing.

Gregg said the next step is hearing from Artspace on whether they want to move forward with the project. She anticipates that will take a few months.

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