An affordable housing project for artists will break ground in Kakaako on Sunday, and developers say rents at the property will be as low as $540 per month.
The Ola Key 'Ilima Artspace Project is the first of its kind in Hawaii and is designed to help struggling artists who live paycheck to paycheck for their passion.
On Friday, workers were preparing for the groundbreaking, including by creating an urban imu at the future home for the project — a parking lot on Waimanu Street. The 84-unit low-income project will be surrounded by Kakaako’s upscale towers.
It's a partnership among the Pa'i Foundation, the government, EAH Housing and Artspace, which has 24 other low-income housing projects for artists nationwide.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority is leasing the land for $1 per year for 65 years.
Vicky Takamine, executive director of the Pa`i Foundation said Hawaii will be the 15th state to feature an Artspace project.
Artists will have to apply through an art selection committee. And rents will be dependent on income; they'll range from $540 for a small 1-bedroom to $1,500 for a three-bedroom.
Young artists said the future units are greatly-needed to help keep Hawaii's art scene vibrant.
University of Hawaii graduate student and artist Nick Hunsinger said finding housing and making ends meet is a constant struggle. He’s learning glass blowing and works several jobs to get by.
“It’s rough. If you want to live by yourself, it’s a tough deal," he said.
It's a sacrifice renowned lauhala weaver Keoua Nelsen is willing to make. For him, living in Kakaako is out of reach, so he plans to apply for the Artspace project when it’s completed in 2019.
“It gives artists a place to live at a very affordable price, but more importantly, it gives artists a space to practice,” said Nelsen.