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Affordable Home/Studio Rentals. For Artists. In Kaka‘ako. Wha?!

Ola Ka Ilima Artspace/Urban Works
Ola Ka Ilima Artspace/Urban Works

Abandoned buildings, urban blight, it’s common knowledge now that undesirable neighborhoods with low rental rates attract artists and creatives.   What tends to follow, are eating places, galleries, bars---and gentrification, which ends up pushing the artists out.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports, an 84 unit, affordable, live/work rental space for artists is coming up in Kaka‘ako.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Vicky Holt Takamine, Kumu Hula of Pua Ali'i 'Ilima and head of the Pa'i foundation, got a look at Artspace projects in Seattle about ten years ago. She asked Artspace to come to Honolulu to see what they could do.

(Note:  In an interview with Artspace representative Naomi Chu on 12/19/18, this clarification:  The lottery 1/22/19 will assign a number to each application.  All applicants will then be interviewed by a 3-5 person panel in sequence, with housing awards assigned after that.  There are 84 available units.  The interview with Chu will air early January 2019. )

Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts rental application release: Monday, 12/17/18

Deadline to submit application for lottery:  1/22/19

Housing Lottery Drawing:  1/29/19  

Note:  Applicants can earn no more than 60% AMI.  According to HUD, Honolulu's 2018 AMI is $96,000.  

Ah, the stalled traffic and  construction noise---another building is going up here on Waimanu street.  I’m pretty sure it was ten years ago that Vicky Holt Takamine first mentioned affordable rentals specifically for artists. 

"You're right, we talked about this ten years ago!" 

Takamine is Kumu Hula of Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima, and Executive Director of the Pa’i Foundation, which has partnered with Artspace, a national organization that builds affordable housing for artists.  They’ve got fifty projects underway across the nation, and most are mixed use, live/work spaces, just like Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace right here.

Takamine:  So the artists get an empty shell, and they can do whatever they want inside the shell.

Ola Ka Ilima Artspace/Urban Works
Credit Ola Ka Ilima Artspace/Urban Works
Takamine's hula halau and foundation will be the anchor tenant in the new development. They plan practice and performance space, as well as office and retail areas.

Spaces were created to be customizable for different kinds of artists --- musicians, filmmakers, writers, painters, etc. all require something different.  The spaces are fairly raw, with kitchens and bathrooms, and polished cement floors.  Renters are responsible for fleshing out their spaces.  Ceilings are high, and windows large, with lots of natural light.  There is a courtyard, playground, garden spaces, a community room, and yes, parking.

Artspace was invited to Honolulu by Takamine, after she saw their work in other cities, where they have reclaimed spaces and injected creative activity.  Artspace claims to be part of an accelerating national movement of equitable, artist-led community development. 

Curently, estimated rents in the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts are running about $600 to $1200 for a one bedroom per month.  A two bedroom unit will go for about $1200 to $1500, and three bedrooms, at over 1200 square feet, will run under $1700. 

Takamine:  Are you an artist? If you income qualify, you’re eligible.  We’re launching!  Applications go out this month, and selection will start in January.

Andrew Neuman is a Project Designer with Urban Works, the architect on the project.  He says this project is something different for the Kaka‘ako neighborhood.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
(r-l) Vicky Holt Takamine with Andrew Neuman, Project Designer with Urban Works, says the Ola Ka 'Ilima Artspace project could allow artists to live on their artwork sales. He notes, this could be a viable option as artists and makers are priced out of what was once light industrial Kaka'ako.

Neuman:  Thity, fifty and sixty percent of the AMI (Area Median Income,) that is the definition of affordable housing.  It’s not reserved housing, it’s not workforce housing, it is low.

Takamine:  You don’t have to make your living off of your art, because artists can't, they can’t survive and make a living off their art, most of us.

Neuman:  It is a good question though because at 30, 40, 50% AMI, you could be in a position where you could start.  If housing costs go down, then you could get back into a place where you’re making your living, which is really incredible.

Takamine;  Yes! That’s the point.  And somebody in your family has to be an artist.  It could be your child is the pianist or the ‘ukulele player that would qualify your family for this project.

Can you imagine the community that could take root there?  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has set the 2018 area median family income for Honolulu at $96,000, up 11% from last year.  Sixty percent of that, is $57,600.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Rental applications will be available Monday, December 17, 2018.  Deadline to submit for the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspacelottery is January 22, 2019.  The artist rentals are slated to open in Spring 2019 and remain affordable in perpetuity.  Find information and the rental packet here.

The lottery for th Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts will take place January 29, 2018.

From the Artspace website:

Location: 1025 Waimanu Street, Honolulu, HI 96814

Date of Opening: Projected to open Spring 2019

Estimated project cost:  $53 million 

Number of Units: 84 live/work units

Parking space: Approx. 94 

Types of Units and Affordability:  50 one-, 30 two- and 4 three-bedroom rental units . Units range from 30%, 50% and 60% of area median income. 

Community Space: 4,600 sq. ft. for PA`I Arts & Culture Center; a 1,275 sq. ft. community room; and 2,000 sq. ft. of commercial space for arts?oriented businesses. 10,000 sq. ft. outdoor green courtyard with playground and workspace.

Income Limits for Applicants: Maximum annual household income must not exceed 60% of the Area Median Income.

Handicapped/Disabled Applicants: Accessible units serving persons with mobility and/or sensory impairments are available.

Security Deposit: A security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent is required for move-in.

Contact Kathleen Kvern at kathleen.kvern@artspace.org to make a contribution to this development project.


TELEPHONE (808) 439-6286 FAX (808) 439-6286 TDD (877) 447-5991


Some credits  Ola Ka `Ilima Artspace Lofts:

Andrew Neuman, Assoc. AIA - Project Designer

Kevin Miyamura, AIA - Project Architect*

Lorrin Matsunaga, AIA - Principle in Charge

Jennifer Poepoe - Project Designer*

Emily Gillmar - Production Support

Karen Lee, AIA - Production Support

Weinstein A+U (Collaborative partner in Initial concept design)

Rendering Credit: Urban Works & Studio 216

Some credits for the Pa`i Foundation design:

Andrew Neuman, Assoc. AIA - Project Designer

Kevin Miyamura, AIA - Project Architect*

Lorrin Matsunaga, AIA - Principle in Charge

Kevin Loo-Chan, AIA - Production Support

Rendering Credit: Urban Works

[* No longer with UrbanWorks Inc.]

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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