• March 2010

Bognet Construction Builds Affordable Apartments + Gallery Space for DC Artists

By Jennifer Bognet
Vice President
Bognet Construction

We at Bognet Construction are excited to break ground later this month on the new Brookland Artspace Lofts, a four-story, 57,000-square-foot arts campus in Washington, D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood.

The $13.1 million project will include 41 affordable apartment units for artists, and a dance and music rehearsal studio with gallery for Dance Place, a modern-dance and arts education organization.

The architect on the project is Hickok Cole, a D.C. firm that we have collaborated with several times.

This is the first time we have worked with Artspace, a Minneapolis firm whose mission is to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. So it is my pleasure to interview Heidi Kurtze, (pictured below) director of property development at Artspace.

Jennifer Bognet: Tell us more about Artspace. How do you pursue your mission, and what are your long-term goals?

Heidi Kurtze: First, let me say that everyone at Artspace is excited to work with Bognet Construction. We chose your firm because we know you are committed to helping the arts, and that’s fairly unusual for a general contractor. We respect and appreciate that.

As for our mission, Artspace’s goal is to develop projects, asset-management activities, consulting services and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures and economic circumstances. By creating this space, Artspace supports the continued professional growth of artists, and enhances the cultural and economic vitality of the surrounding community.

Jennifer: You have been in business since 1979. What inspired the founders to start the firm?

Heidi: As you can imagine, finding and retaining affordable live/work space is an age-old problem for artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, and others who require an abundance of well-lit space in which to work. Many artists gravitate to old warehouses and other industrial buildings, but their very presence in an industrial neighborhood often acts as a catalyst, setting in motion a process of gentrification that drives up rents and forces the artists out.

This is precisely what happened in Minneapolis’ historic Warehouse District in the 1970s, and led to the creation of Artspace in 1979. Established to serve as an advocate for artists’ space needs, Artspace effectively fulfilled that mission for nearly a decade. By the mid-1980s, however, it was clear that the problem required a more proactive approach, and Artspace made the leap from advocate to developer. Since then, the scope of Artspace’s activities has grown dramatically.

We are proud to say that Artspace is now America’s leading nonprofit real estate developer for the arts. In the last few years, Artspace has further expanded its mission to incorporate the planning and development of performing arts centers, other arts facilities, and entire arts districts throughout the country.

Jennifer: Tell us a little more about what the Brookland Artspace Lofts in D.C. will feature.

Heidi: It will have open interiors, underground parking, performance areas, wide hallways and large elevators so the artists can easily transport their artwork around the building. It will also feature a mosaic tile installation that will be provided by community volunteers, and a “green” roof that will be installed as a community service project.

Jennifer: I know that you worked closely with the D.C. government to make this project happen.

Heidi: That’s right. Discussions about the project began in 2006, when the leaders of Artspace worked with the D.C. Department of Housing and Development, then subsequently with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (pictured right).

The government had developed a policy that would direct D.C. agencies to work together to create and fund art projects that act as an effective tool for economic revitalization. The Brookland Artspace Lofts are a result of that initiative.

Jennifer: I understand that the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding. Is that correct?

Heidi: Yes, and that includes $1 million in low-income-housing tax credits for the role Artspace is playing in revitalizing the Brookland neighborhood.

The goal of the project is to create affordable units where artists and their families can live and work. So all of the units will be available to households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Jennifer: Tell us more about what you are doing with the modern dance and arts education organization, Dance Place.

Heidi: As soon as construction begins, Artspace will support Dance Place in its effort to renovate its existing theater space, which is located next door at 3225 8th Street, N.E., and create an outdoor plaza and performance area between the two buildings.

Jennifer: We’ll be breaking ground this month, and the official groundbreaking is on April 9, with a completion date of July 2011.

Heidi: We’re so happy that the project is finally beginning! It will take about 14 months to complete, and will be a terrific addition to the neighborhood that is undergoing revitalization efforts.

Jennifer: Thanks so much for your time, Heidi. We’ll look forward to writing more about the project as it unfolds.

About Jennifer Bognet, Bognet Construction

As vice president of Bognet Construction, Jennifer (pictured here with Bognet Construction’s owners Jim Bognet, on left, and Jeff Kaiser, on right) is responsible for many strategic and operational aspects of the company including client relations, business development, marketing and communications, human resources and community outreach. She works closely with the executive team to ensure the effective execution of corporate strategy and goals.

In this role, she defines and deploys evaluation and measurement tools and processes, and uses her expertise to enhance the project delivery system, with a focus on continual improvement.

Jennifer is very active in commercial real estate organizations such as CREW, NAIOP, DCBIA and the Washington Board of Trade. Her drive, leadership and dedicated focus on complete client satisfaction continue to differentiate the firm.

About Bognet Construction

Bognet Construction, founded in 1998 by Jim Bognet and Jeff Kaiser is a $50 million company based in Arlington, Virginia. With its team of project managers, superintendents and support staff, the commercial builder has completed tenant interiors and base building projects for some of the region’s largest corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations including Freddie Mac, Chemonics International and General Dynamics. Most recently, Bognet Construction built the offices for Visa International and ManTech International, and has completed multiple projects for the General Services Administration and related federal agencies.

Bognet Construction is committed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects, a standard for “green” building design. Most of the company’s project managers have earned LEED accreditation — something the owners believe is critical as they move forward. For details, visit www.bognet.com.

About Artspace

Artspace’s mission is to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. We pursue this mission through development projects, asset-management activities, consulting services and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures and economic circumstances. By creating this space, Artspace supports the continued professional growth of artists, and enhances the cultural and economic vitality of the surrounding community. For more, visit www.artspace.org.

About the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development

The mission of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is to create and preserve opportunities for affordable housing and economic development, and to revitalize underserved communities in the District of Columbia. DHCD’s key objectives are to:

  • Finance the production of quality, affordable housing and homeownership opportunities at the project and household levels
  • Preserve quality, affordable housing and homeownership opportunities
  • Increase economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents
  • Ensure fair and quality housing by administering rental-housing regulations.

More information about DHCD and its programs is available at www.dhcd.dc.gov.

About Hickok Cole

Hickok Cole Architects Inc. is a 55-person, award-winning architecture, housing, interior design and master-planning firm located in Washington, D.C. It is also one of the most successful architectural firms in the region, experiencing steady growth over a period of 20 years. Having designed more than 60 million square feet of corporate office buildings, multifamily housing and interiors in the years since its founding, the firm is committed to the satisfaction of clients through great design, great management, and a great place to work.

With more than 9 million square feet of LEED projects either in design or under construction, Hickok Cole Architects has a strong commitment to sustainable design principles. The firm is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and 75 percent of the professional staff is LEED certified. For more information, go to “www.hickokcole.com”:http://www.hickokcole.com.