• Lancaster Lofts – Open Studios for Creative People
  • Exterior – Front
  • Gorgeous northern exposure
  • Sleeping area
  • Loft Kitchen
  • Spacious bathroom
  • Loft interior
  • Open Studios for Creative People
  • Gated Access
  • Exterior – Rear

It’s About Community

Posted by Flora Alexandra No Commented Sunday, September 8th, 2013

This is truly a continuation of My Story, but it’s a side trip to Race Street that has become a joy.  In about 2006 I met a friend who introduced me to a little piece of Race Street in the Six Points Urban Village between Sylvania and Riverside.  A charming area reminiscent of old Austin.  Small store fronts with community fixtures like Hale’s Costumes had fallen on hard times waiting to be rediscovered.  Surrounding, a highly diverse residential community – diverse in income, ethnicity, age.  My friend had been working with the owner of a property near the big intersection with Belknap (creating the “6 Points”) to rehab a beautiful old building.  The owner was personally supervising the work to include several retail and office spaces with the anchor being “Mamma Mia’s” (a wonderful neighborhood restaurant with the freshest Italian food in town).

Well I was hooked.  My brothers and I ended up buying over 4 acres between Race and Belknap, including an old meat packing facility.  The idea was to develop a mixed-use neighborhood that would eventually make money.  But it was 2006 and although we did a lot of engineering and planning, there were just no tenants while the commercial real estate market tanked in the great recession.  So I set aside the grandiose ideas and set about development as I know it.

Networking.  And my network is artists and community organizations.  We demolished what we thought couldn’t be reused.  We rehabbed buildings at 2902, 2814, 2812 and 2806.  First came the Tarrant County Democratic Party leasing 2806.  Then I joined forces with the tireless community arts organizer, Debby Stein.  Our friend Lori Thomson, another guerrilla arts organizer who I’d worked with in the early days of the studios at Lancaster Lofts, came up with the idea of open studios in our largest space.  We had rehabbed the space for a gym that abandoned the project – giant bathrooms with showers, windows on two sides, lots of open space and light.  Lori and Debby named it the Work Room.  Later on Lori moved to other projects and Kelly Belindo took over as our anchor artist – she was attracted by the big front retail style windows.  Her art is clothing design – textiles – accessories – custom tailoring.  Beautiful, creative stuff.  Kelly began signing up artists who were attracted to the open concept and energized by working around and collaborating with other artists.  Then we leased spaces to other artistic souls – Jason Gamblin’s commercial photography studio, a couple from New York City who live and work on their art forms in the space.  And most recently an emerging, non-traditional church that offers Yoga classes all day long with a continuous gallery on the walls from artist in their community.  And while all this was happening, Debby was connecting with the surrounding neighborhood associations including Oakhurst and Scenic Bluff.  These people are amazing.  On the undeveloped land behind the Work Room, led by Terry McIlraith, they developed the Stolen Gardens.  (You might have seen a newspaper article on how their initial beautifully-painted raised bed boxes had been been stolen before they could by filled.)  Debby brought a “Better Blocks Project” to the neighborhood that got the attention of the City of Fort Worth and now we have new street paving and striping.  I added a small parking lot and in keeping with the creative spirit, Lori Thomson (an accomplished sculptor and teacher) created an abstract fence out of found metal pieces.

Well, yesterday was Fall Gallery Night.  We had 4 venues open with over 15 artists represented.  I walked around, greeting old friends, being introduced to new ones.  And watched the energy behind every venue.  And this wasn’t the first such event on Race Street.  We’ve had gallery openings with Lauren Cross (a young up and comer in the DFW art scene) at WOCA (Women of Color Arts) now at 2902 Race.  We’ve got art classes at the Work Room.  We even had a community pot luck on the slab of the old meat packing plant next to the gardens with white table cloths and candelabras.  The Democrats have built a beautiful deck on the back of their building and held fish fries and movie nights open to the community.

And so in sum, that’s what it’s about.  I can’t say that I am a successful developer.  I can’t brag about my CAP rates.  But I can run a self-sustaining business and bring people together.  I am so proud of us.  All of us.  The pioneering residents and tenants.  The community leaders who don’t even live anywhere nearby but just want to help.  The neighborhood leaders who are bound to make a safe, creative, welcoming place to meet and play and work together with their friends.  Places just work well when the community helps to build them.  I’m humbled that I have been blessed with the resources to help make places for community to happen.