Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Posted: 11:26 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011
Pleasant City, long known as one of the city's most downtrodden neighborhoods, is artistically trying to repair its image.
The city's Community Redevelopment Agency is re-branding a portion of Pleasant City as Lot 23, with the motto "the artful side of Pleasant City."
It begins with eight apartments that previously served as public housing. The CRA bought the property from the West Palm Beach Housing Authority and will rent the homes out to eight artists.
Area artists will be able to apply to live in the subsidized homes. They will be required to donate some time each week to the community, and CRA officials hope they'll help turn Pleasant City into an arts mecca.
"If you're a painter, we may have you work in a gallery space that we're going to be opening up," said CRA Administrator Grace Joyce. "If you're a music teacher, we'll have you go to the Pleasant City multicultural gallery or have you teach music to kids at Pleasant City Elementary School. It's a buyback into the neighborhoods."
Joyce says she expects the apartment to be filled by next summer. In addition, the CRA plans to open a restaurant across the street that will turn into a community kitchen at night, where mom-and-pop eateries can sell food in a market-like setting.
A studio space for artists also is planned. Joyce said the CRA has budgeted for about $1 million for the space. She hopes to eventually sell the properties to a private investor.
Trina Burks, who creates 3-D art along with her husband, Anthony, said Lot 23 is a long time coming.
"They've been talking about it for a while, and it's about time that West Palm Beach has this component as well," Burks said. "You see it in Delray and Lake Worth. It's something that we've even tried to start up."
Joyce said the CRA hasn't determined prices yet for the 750-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments. But she said the CRA rents out a three-bedroom house in the area for $450 a month, so the Pleasant City artists apartments could rent for significantly less.
Burks believes it could give a spark to Pleasant City.
"Between the restaurants and everything that's (on Northwood Road), it'll start becoming a place people will want to come, not just to dine but to purchase art," Burks said. "It's something that's needed to bring culture into the neighborhood and beautify the community."
While the CRA will consider anybody who applies, Joyce said she hopes to find artists who already have shown a commitment to the community.
She also is encouraging some more established artists to join the effort and mentor the younger artists who could live in Lot 23.
"You need someone who is going to be able to keep everybody on track," Joyce said. "If you have to work 10 hours of community service, you need one or two people to mentor the younger artists to make sure they do that. We're going to create this community within the community that will give back to the community."