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Peekskill is about 50 miles north of New York City. In the early 90s, the population was dwindling and the downtown area was becoming more vacant. The Common Council decided to make artist studios and galleries an important part of the City’s revitalization strategy.
The city wanted to turn its unused downtown spaces into something useful. Similar to Lowell, MA’s strategy, in order to have a vibrant downtown area one must have a population living there, so that the activity does not only happen from nine to five. In creating spaces where artists both live and work, the city created a situation in which there would always be people downtown, 24 hours a day.
At the same time the Common Council wanted to get people into downtown Peekskill, rising real estate prices in New York City were driving artists to move further away from even the outer boroughs. Peekskill took an active role in pursuing displaced artists by taking out advertisements in So Ho art magazines and offering them low interest rates. This helped artists buy buildings and convert them into useful spaces. Once a few artists had moved to Peekskill, a buzz was created and more artists made the move north.
Today, the City of Peekskill has 80 artist/live work lofts. This includes the Peekskill Art Lofts opened in 2002. The Peekskill Art Lofts are an affordable 28-unit limited equity cooperative apartment complex built for qualified artists.
As an economic development incentive, landlords can be offered tax incentives, grants, facade improvements, and loans to renovate buildings that can be used as live-work spaces by artists.
To lease one of these artist lofts for living and working, the City’s Artist Certification Committee must certify an individual as an artist.
The City of Peekskill Department of Planning, Development and Code Assistance currently manages the developmental process to maintain and grow live-work spaces for artists on the upper floors of commercial buildings.