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Meeting tonight focuses on Space to Create Initiative

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A community meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Paradise Theatre will give the public an opportunity to learn more about Paonia's participation in the Space to Create Initiative.

The North Fork Valley Creative Coalition (NFVCC), the Town of Paonia, and Space to Create Colorado will host the meeting. They are collaborating with the Colorado Office of Economic Development, Colorado Creative Industries, the Department of Local Affairs, The Boettcher Foundation and Artspace to provide affordable workforce housing and work spaces for creative entrepreneurs living in the Paonia area.

The free community meeting will offer a broad look at ArtSpace, a Minneapolis-based national nonprofit real estate developer of affordable housing for artists. Artspace is committed to creating affordable live and work spaces for artists, said NFVCC board president Susie Kaldis Lowe. To date, ArtSpace has created more than 40 projects across the country.

The meeting will kick off with original songs by Paonia singer-songwriter Ellen Stapenhorst, followed by a short presentation on the Elsewhere Studios "Inspired" project. A slide show presentation by Artspace will be followed by a Q&A session and discussion.

"We really want audience participation," said Lowe. "No question will go unanswered."

While it's a community meeting, "It's also a celebration of how far the organization has come through this competitive process," said Lowe. Paonia was competing against "big hitters" including Carbondale and Crested Butte.

Because they value what ArtSpace has to offer, those communities are moving forward with projects of their own, said Lowe. Carbondale recently hired ArtSpace to complete a feasibility study outside of the Space to Create Initiative.

Paonia was selected for participation in Space to Create in December. The meeting, as well as a series of scoping sessions that are wrapping up today (Jan. 17), are part of the Phase I feasibility study portion of the initiative. The study asks people what they value in the community, said Lowe.

Phase 2, which could begin as early as April, involves an Arts Market survey. A grant from The Boettcher Foundation, with matching funds from DOLA, will provide the roughly $65,000 cost of the first two phases.

ArtSpace will report its findings sometime in August, based on Ridgway's experiences with the process. "From that we'll know how to move forward into predevelopment," said Lowe.

Projects will be customized to fit the needs of the community, based on public input and information gathered during the two phases. As the first state-driven initiative for affordable housing for artists, "Colorado is doing something different," said Lowe. "We're only the third community, out of nine, to go through the whole process."

In terms of where funding will come from, how development will be paid for, "There's still a lot of things to figure out."

Tonight's meeting will provide an opportunity for comment. "We want the community's input," said Lowe. "We don't want to come in and overlay something that doesn't fit this place. We want something that represents this place, that is this place."

The meeting is expected to run about an hour and a half, depending on the level of participation. "It's an opportunity to network, meet with friends, and get excited about the future of this community," said Lowe.

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