Steinfeld Warehouse Poised for Resident Artists

January 31, 2012

By Teya Vitu

A vision is taking shape for the next chapter of the 105-year old Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 West 6th Street, which is now owned by the Warehouse Arts Management Organization.

A corridor may lead from the left door to the Steinfeld Warehouse's courtyard in back.

Imagine as soon as the next couple years seeing artists living in the portion of Steinfeld along 6th Street and commercial arts enterprises and public art studios along the 9th Avenue section.

WAMO members and the Poster Frost Mirto architecture and urban planning firm have been collaborating over the past month or so to come up with a conceptual plan for the Steinfeld, which has sat empty since 2007.

Artists came to a basic consensus on January 26 after picking and choosing elements from three different conceptual plans presented by Post Frost Mirto.

The idea is to create a live-work environment where artists can live at the Steinfeld and have a dedicated studio space right in their apartments. WAMO also has the ambition for this to be affordable housing for artists.

The artists agreed they liked a row of nine apartments, each measuring 16 feet wide and 54 feet long.

The Poster Frost Mirto team had also drawn up two-level apartments with studios in the basement and apartments aligned with 6th Street and wrapping around the courtyard. These two concepts each had 12 apartments and apartments on both sides of a corridor, but the artists favored the shoebox alignment.

The artists preferred the hardscape courtyard from the three concepts the architects proposed for the outdoor courtyard, which fills the Steinfeld’s southwest quadrant. Another courtyard design called for a residential garden and a third for a descending amphitheater.

But the artists felt the hardscape better allowed for public access and a greater variety of public events.

Poster Frost Mirto partners Corky Poster and John Mirto will present a further evolved conceptual plan at a public meeting at 10 a.m. February 11 at the Roy Place Building, 44 North Stone Avenue.

“We will have a hybrid design that can be evaluated and changed,” Poster said.

The concept Poster and Mirto are working with calls for a main 9th Avenue entrance with a wide corridor leading to the courtyard. Apartments would be to the right and commercial and public studio space to the left.

The basement was not used for the 20-some years that artists occupied the building, but the basement will be in play in the Steinfeld’s new life as more studio, commercial and storage space.

Poster also reminded artists the Steinfeld’s future could involve the acreage around the building as much as it does the interior of the 1907 brick warehouse.

Today, the Steinfeld has no surrounding acreage because 6th Street and 9th Avenue run right alongside the building. But the new Downtown Links roadway will move 6th Street a few hundred feet to the north, creating a potential park space outside Steinfeld.

“That’s a real opportunity in the long run for Steinfeld,” Poster said.

9th Avenue will no longer be a through street for vehicles.

An alley and a small lot owned by the Arizona Department of Transportation sit to the west of Steinfeld, just beyond the courtyard. WAMO could conceivably buy that lot and what is now 6th Street land.

“The Steinfeld has potential opportunities to the east, potential opportunities to the north and potential opportunities to the west,” Poster said.

Town West owns the parking lot and triangle-shaped building to the south, wedged between Scott and 9th Avenues. But that doesn’t mean WAMO couldn’t make a deal with Town West at a future date.

Meanwhile, structural repairs to the brick walls and roof start right away and should be done by the end of March. The hope is to have artists living in the Steinfeld Warehouse by 2014.

WAMO has about $500,000 for the repair work comprised of city Community Development Block Grant funds and state trust funds from the rents artists paid ADOT during the 25 years they have occupied Toole Avenue warehouses and the Steinfeld.

WAMO also has $600,000 in federal HOME low-income housing funds to give the organization a head start with tenant improvements for the nine artist apartments.

Funding still needs to be assembled for the full build out. That could be a combination of grants and tax credits, said Jim Wilcox, a development consultant for WAMO.

The fate of the Steinfeld Warehouse has largely been in a holding pattern for the past five years as ADOT, the City and WAMO performed a very slow negotiating dance to get the Steinfeld, Toole Shed Studios and Citizen’s warehouses under WAMO’s control.

ADOT has owned 29 warehouses on or near Toole Avenue since the mid-1980s in anticipation of building a bypass link to connect the Barraza-Aviation Parkway to Interstate 10. Ultimately, the City found a new route and spared a string of Toole warehouses and the Steinfeld.

ADOT has been divesting itself of Toole warehouses since November 2009 with all the warehouses between Stone and Sixth Avenue now in private or nonprofit ownership, including the Toole Shed Studios, which WAMO acquired in March 2011.

ADOT, the City and WAMO came to a special arrangement for Toole Shed to establish restrictions that these warehouses must be used for arts purposes. All the other Toole warehouses were auctioned with no restrictions, though all remain arts oriented.

ADOT a few years ago transferred Toole Shed, Steinfeld and Citizen’s to the City, which then negotiated to sell the Toole Shed and Steinfeld to WAMO.

WAMO took ownership of Steinfeld on November 9. The organization paid $1 for the Steinfeld Warehouse plus a $250,000 fee for the right to develop the property. The City retains ownership of the land beneath Steinfeld and Toole Shed, 197 East Toole Avenue.

WAMO is the master lease holder of the Citizen’s Warehouse. The three warehouses bring 65,000 square feet of art space under direct WAMO control.