Actors Fund To Conduct Survey To Develop An Affordable Housing Project, 8/13

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The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) today launched a market study to determine the interests of performing and visual artists and others associated with the arts, entertainment and creative industries in affordable housing in Rahway, NJ. In an event at the new Hamilton Stage, the AFHDC began a four-week initiative to survey artists from metropolitan New York to Trenton, NJ. Survey results will help shape the Rahway Residence for the Arts, a 69-unit affordable housing project the AFHDC will develop in the Rahway Arts District (RAD).

“We are asking people in the performing, entertainment and visual arts communities about their preferences and needs,” said Scott Weiner, AFHDC president and CEO. “Their responses will help us shape the design, amenities and more for the development of what is now vacant land situated within two blocks of the Hamilton Stage and across the street from the Union County Performing Arts Center into a home for artists.”
The AFHDC development team includes Crawford Street Partners of Newark, NJ, and the Ingerman Group of Cherry Hill, NJ. The site is located three blocks from the Rahway New Jersey Transit train station. A former two story office building located on the site will be donated to the City of Rahway for use as an arts education facility.
“We need to find ways to bring affordable living spaces to performing and visual artists who contribute so much to the local economies while they work their crafts,” said Joseph P. Benincasa, president and CEO of The Actors Fund, and chairman of the AFHDC board. He noted that those in the entertainment business generally earn substantially less than the national average. “The national median salary is $39,280, compared to $30,254 for actors and $27,392 for dancers.”

Weiner said performing and visual artists are encouraged to complete the 10-minute online survey by logging on to: www.RahwayArtistHousingSurvey.org.
Joining Benincasa and Weiner at the Rahway event were leaders of the New Jersey and New York arts communities, including John McEwen of the NJ Theatre Alliance; Leo Vasquez of Rutgers University’s Arts Build Communities; Kadie Dempsey of the Arts Council of the Morris Area; Karen Pinzolo of ArtPride NJ.; Linwood Oglesby of the Newark Arts Council, and Carol Herbert of the NJ State Council on the Arts.

Also in attendance were Rahway officials including Samson Steinman, president of Rahway City Council and executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center and Hamilton Stage, and William Rack of the Rahway Redevelopment Commission. Actors and other artists living and working in the region who would benefit from the availability of affordable housing also attended the event and were among the first to complete the online survey.
During the event attendees learned about AFHDC plans to redevelop the property owned and previously used by Elizabethtown Gas at 210 Central Avenue. The site will include spaces devoted to resident and community cultural use such as rehearsal rooms, galleries, studios, and a community arts education facility, in addition to affordable housing for artists.
In May of this year, the city of Rahway designated the non-profit AFHDC as the redeveloper of the site for the affordable housing project. Together with its development partners, the AFHDC is planning to develop, own and manage affordable rental units for individuals and families with low and moderate incomes. Current plans anticipate construction to begin in 2013.

This is the first step in a community engagement effort that will be documented in a report to be shared through publication of research papers on the impact of the strategies and actions.
“The AFHDC believes that this innovative approach to community empowerment provides an opportunity to capture lessons learned and best practices so they can be shared with other communities wishing to align revitalization initiatives, whether they involve affordable housing and the arts or other strategies unique to a particular community,” Weiner said.
The AFHDC is also actively evaluating opportunities for future developments in New York City and Newark. The AFHDC anticipates a balanced funding mix for the actual development of the properties, with support from both public and private sources. The buildings will be funded by a variety of means, including tax credits and tax-exempt bonds, combined with philanthropic dollars.




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