The art of staying put - Page 3

The area is thriving, but will Mid-Market arts center plan survive the tech boom?

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The place: Mid-Market is booming -- but will the arts lose out?
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

"As a community, we can't allow ourselves to lose Lorraine Hansberry Theatre," Tenderloin Economic Development Project executive director Elvin Padilla wrote in a recent blog post. "I can't think of a more meaningful place for its historic name and presence to be seen and felt." Padilla has been integral in crafting 950 Center plans, but did not return calls seeking an interview for this story.

Youth Speaks, an arts organization that exposes Bay Area youth to spoken word, theatre, and poetry with a focus on kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods, has also expressed interest. "Our rent just doubled," explained James Kass, the organization's executive director. "It's a typical nonprofit thing. We move in and then Yelp, or Zynga, or Twitter moves in, and the rent goes up."

Kass added, "A lot of us are fighting to stay in San Francisco ... but rent is cheaper in Oakland." While he was hopeful that Youth Speaks would get an opportunity to move into the 950 Center, he wasn't convinced that it would come to pass. "With the rapid growth, all of a sudden it's a hotspot for redevelopment. It's too bad there wasn't something put down on paper awhile ago," guaranteeing an art use, he said.

Shortly after Kim and Lee hosted the breakfast for Mid-Market developers, they succeeded in convincing Lone Star to include language in its Offering Memorandum asking prospective buyers "to help provide input into possible developer incentives for arts uses."

At the end of the day, longtime arts and community-oriented groups fighting to keep their toeholds in San Francisco haven't been promised anything, despite years of stakeholder meetings convened by the city emphasizing art as a central focus. Yet Padilla, clearly keeping his eye on the prize, lauded Kim and Lee for inventing perks to entice developers to support art over profit. "While this is indeed a major victory, the mention of a 'potential arts component' does not translate into a done deal for the 950 Project," he wrote in a blog post. "Speculative bidders with billions of dollars in their arsenal will still try to avoid addressing this issue and test the resolve of City Hall and the local community. This means the hard work of advocacy ... must continue."

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