A dodgy, formerly-industrial section of the Washington Corridor will soon be transformed into 36-acre “campus” for artists. The art destination, christened “Sawyer Yards,” will be a gathering place for artists and patrons to eat, drink, shop, and create. More than 300 artists will have studios on-site, and loft apartments and a parking garage will also be part of the construction project. Sawyer Yards will be located just off Washington Avenue at Sawyer Street, a mile and a half west of downtown. Currently, the space is mostly an abandoned railroad spur cluttered with trash, weeds, and various urban detritus. Phase I will be completed in November, and will transform part of this mess of broken asphalt into a promenade called “Artist Alley.”
In addition to art studios and living space, the complex will include entertainment options, a brewery, wellness facilities, and an organic food market. Former rice silos will be transitioned into studio space, which will be dramatically lit at night and serve as the campus’s main landmark.
While there are similarly-planned art communities throughout the US, Sawyer Yards will be the first of its kind in Houston. When completed, Sawyer Yards will be larger than any of the communities that inspired it, including the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis, the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA, and San Antonio’s Blue Star Art Complex. The existing Silver Street Studios will be connected to the “Artist Alley” part of the complex by a deck spanning the building’s back side.
Although the site’s developers are doing a tremendous service to the community by beautifying an ugly space and invigorating the local art scene, they also stand to make a lot of money. Since the silo land was purchased last summer, the property values have doubled. Aside from the construction aspect of the project, perhaps the biggest task to be completed is finding the right mix of tenants to fill the retail spaces. It remains to be seen what types of businesses will lease the Sawyer Yard spaces, but expect a mix of cafes, galleries, antique shops, and other small businesses with a local flavor.
The image above is an artist’s rendering of the planned “Artist Alley” portion of the Sawyer Yards development.
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Source: Houston Chronicle