PUD, the G-word, and the mission of Maker Revitalization in NoLi

We here at NoLi CDC have very exciting news: you may have heard us talking about creating a “live-work artists community” on our website, our facebook page, our printed materials, or in talking to us. We have heard a lot of questions, not the least of which is “How are you going to do that.” I am excited to announce that we cleared a major hurdle by having our Planned Unit Development (PUD) Text Amendment application passed unanimously by the LFUCG Planning Commission a few weeks ago. We even got “Yea” votes from those who seemed to be skeptical or critical of our proposal, which I almost feel is more powerful than the votes we got from those who vocalized their support from the get-go. In any case, we are on to the Common Council for their vote in December, and are optimistic that an endorsement by the Planning Commission, as well as all of the wonderful support we have from the LFUCG Planning Staff, the NoLi community, and our partner organizations, will go a long way toward convincing them of its merit and import, and pass it as well.

Once the Text Amendment is passed, we can then apply to have our properties converted to this new PUD-2 zoning, which allows such uses as live/work space, artist studios, artisan food & beverage production, artisan manufacturing, digital makerspace, urban agriculture, and the list goes on from there. Once our properties, as well as those of a few partners, are converted in the first Map Amendment application, we plan to make regular applications every 6-9 months to facilitate other property owners converting their properties without having to bear the burden of the application fee or the time to see it through.

And what about Gentrification, that dreaded buzzword, that linguistic death knell that signals the pushing out of all that we understand to be the authentic, rooted and established culture of a place, pushed out by rising property values, an influx of “outsiders,” and ostensibly a shift in the cultural and racial make-up of a place? How are we going to not gentrify NoLi? What we are doing, what are we going to continue to do, is combat this displacement of the people who call this place home by making placement of current residents the top priority; combat the common “fix-and-flip” approach by creating well-built, efficient, inspiring, unique places that will combine to reflect the richness and diversity of this place; combat creating a stand-off between those who have been here and those who want to come here by treating everyone as equals, by preventing “flipping,” by promoting owner-occupancy, by keeping our budgets as lean as they can possibly be, by taking all proceeds and rolling them into more work, by being transparent and honest and clear.

We are Vitalizing NoLi – it is already vital, to be sure, and we are working to augment that vitality and vibrancy, to stand on the shoulders of the history and character that exists, and add to it, to shore up the rotten sagging floors and straighten the bellied bulging walls, but maintain the character, learn from and add to the history. We are working with all of our tenants, and anyone in the existing community who is interested, to place them in a Maker Space, to help them secure financing to buy a house, regardless of their income or financial circumstances, to work with them to design a space that suits their specific needs and personality, to be a steward of this finely-grained and richly diverse place, and to lift it up to the next level in its evolution.

From our point of view, this is an experiment in how to position, empower and support Makers to be at the core of a neighborhood Vitalization effort, and how the combination of the existing cultural and architectural fabric, overlaid with all of the economic possibilities that come with this expanded list of uses, will create a diverse community that will enable people to do what they love and support themselves doing it.

This PUD only applies to the 177 properties bounded by N. Limestone, the RJ Corman railroad track, Maple, and 7th Street. But it is a model that we hope bears repeating in the many other blocks that could use this kind of attention and love. We are grateful for everyone that has had a hand in making this happen. We are excited to see what this can yield. We are ready to start Making.

Do what you love | love what you do.

[KMN]