Thursday’s Editorial: An arts district makes sense for Riverside.

One way to develop a city is to introduce artists into a neighborhood.


Take empty buildings, fill them with creative people and suddenly interest surges, property values increase.


Often, the artists are priced out, and have to move to a new neighborhood.


That’s great for a city, but not especially kind to the artists.


Creation of a formal arts district was the subject of a preliminary meeting at City Hall recently.


There already are a number of artistic centerpieces in Riverside with CoRK, the Yellow House and especially Space 42. It’s on Phyllis Street near CoRK.


Space 42 is a reference to “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (the meaning of life is 42).


The owner-operators of Space 42 were the featured speakers before several City Council members at City Hall: Kevin and Michelle Calloway.


They took an old warehouse with over 20,000 square feet and a 20-foot ceiling and made it an innovative, interactive place for artistic expression.


Last year about 35,000 people visited Space 42. This year over 15,000 have visited in just the first two months of the year.


The Calloways are funding Space 42 with their regular jobs. Kevin Calloway runs a tech company that he started in Los Angeles and Michelle Calloway is a photographer.


But for this space to flourish they need reasonable help from the city with such basics as street lighting, parking and trash receptacles. Neighbors need to be considered as Space 42 gets busier.


A formal arts district could help deal with these issues and help expand the benefits to the community.


Joy Young, head of the Cultural Council, offered the help of her organization such as using information from an economic impact study.


The Calloways said they have received interest from artists nationally and worldwide because there is so much space and freedom to exhibit there. The object is to be interactive.


Councilman Garrett Dennis suggested that an arts district use some of the lessons of the Railyard District in the Beaver Street area. There were impressive businesses there but they could use some organization and collaboration for impact.


Kevin Calloway, a graduate of Stanton College Prep, wanted to bring some of his Los Angeles tech experience to his hometown. He told Times-Union reporter Matt Soergel in 2017 that he and Michelle wanted to move to Jacksonville to be around family in a less hectic environment than LA.


Nevertheless, can this self-funding experiment last for the long term? That’s where reasonable help from the city comes in.


“I don’t know if we’re crazy or not,” Kevin said.


“We’re definitely crazy,” Michelle said.


Well, Jacksonville can use a lot more of this craziness.


The area in Council Member Randy DeFoor’s district could take lessons from an arts district in St. Petersburg, she said.


“I think this is a great thing,” she said.


An arts district in Asheville, N.C. has similarities, as well. A street of former warehouses off the beaten path has been turned into a creative hotspot.


Jacksonville has the artists. Jacksonville has the empty buildings.


All we need is a little help and direction from City Hall.