DIVA Seeks Funding for Bigger Britches

[If you’d rather not read the summary below, scroll all the way to the end to find direct links to the resources cited in support of DIVA’s recent grant request. Otherwise, read on!]

You may be aware that DIVA co-founders Amy and Andy Dudas recently presented a grant application to the Richmond Redevelopment Commission. Soon after the presentation, the Palladium-Item published a story about the presentation seeking up to $1.5 million in TIF funding to support DIVA’s proposed expansion project that would not only make the arts even more accessible to everyone but would also contribute towards Richmond’s commitment to economic development and infrastructure improvement in its downtown area.

This kind of funding is one that understandably raises questions from taxpayers who see themselves as footing the bill for a project that may or may not be something that would benefit or interest them personally. In addition, concerns arise about why a municipality should make these kinds of investments in private enterprise (whether organized as a nonprofit or not). We hope to answer those questions, and more, by providing as much information as we possibly can. It’s important to DIVA that the community is afforded every opportunity to understand how law and policy might support this project.

What is TIF funding? TIF stands for “tax increment financing,” and it’s a way for local governments to develop and redevelop a designated area deemed in need of economic development (Richmond’s Downtown has long been designated one of these areas). It’s designed to accomplish public functions that the ordinary operations of private enterprise cannot accomplish because the cost is so high to properly use the land in a way that best serves the interests of the county and its citizens. The idea is to fund projects that will benefit public health, safety, morals, and welfare, increase the economic well-being of the designated area and the state, and serve to protect and increase the property values in the designated area.

The money comes from capturing property tax assessment increases from real estate within the defined area. Technically, only property owners who pay real estate taxes within the defined area are “paying” for projects with TIF funding. Information about the TIF district DIVA is in (Wayne County has seven) is available online.

A five-member redevelopment commission (three are appointed by the mayor, two are appointed by Common Council, and a sixth non-voting member from the school board is also included) determines the areas needing development and redevelopment. The Commission is charged with promoting the use of land in a manner that best serves the area and its inhabitants by replanning and disposing of areas in need of redevelopment in a way that best serves the economic and social interests of the area.

If you’re having trouble sleeping or otherwise just want to read the statute that governs TIF funding in Indiana, see Ind. Code 36-7-14. It’s kind of complicated, and there are a variety of ways funding is awarded (forgivable loans that include conditions for forgiveness, bond revenue, grants, etc.).

A summary of our proposal follows. It is clear that the project is contained within a designated TIF district, and we believe that our proposed project falls well within the law and policy that allows it to be funded in some way by these specifically-designated funds. We have made the full application available on our website, as well as the addendum submitted to the Commission at the presentation. We do not expect the project to be fully funded with TIF funds; rather, we hope that TIF funds will get the project started with about a third of the full project cost. The remainder of the project would then be funded from a combination of other grant funding sources, private donations, and Amy’s and Andy’s pockets.

  • Amy and Andy Dudas organized DIVA as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in July of 2017 with the idea of creating a unique community space that would make the arts accessible to everyone.
  • They bought 708-714 East Main Street in mid-2017 to put into motion their plans to support and be a part of Richmond’s commitment to the revitalization of its downtown area, planning to move Dudas Law into the second floor and create a viable space in which DIVA could flourish and grow.
  • Amy and Andy have sunk a chunk of their savings for initial renovations (over $50,000) and plan to continue to personally supplement funding for ongoing renovations for this project and future building needs.
  • The building was built in 1878 and is considered the larges and most ornate of the designs architect John H. Hasecoster brought to Richmond. Later construction in Richmond’s downtown was largely influenced by this building.
  • Without an elevator or access to ground-floor accommodations, the upper floors of this historically and architecturally significant building are unsustainable for public use. The idea of “grandfathering” in old buildings with regard to accessibility standards is a bit of a myth and more complicated than most people think. Even small businesses must make readily achievable modifications to existing buildings. Fair housing standards have their own set of nuances as well.
  • When it comes to accessibility, DIVA doesn’t want to just do the bare minimum to comply with the law. DIVA strives to make the arts accessible to everyone, which means ensuring every bit of planning and design ensures all barriers to creating, producing, exhibiting, and performing art are removed.

  • DIVA provides a flexible open venue for the exhibition and performance of any art form and fosters an inclusive, collaborative environment of inspiration and creation.
  • DIVA is designed to be a blank canvas of a space that is fully configurable to any artist’s needs.
  • DIVA offers three components:
    • Live! at DIVA, in which third-party artists have access, at no charge, to the space and its amenities (such as staging, seating, tables, stage lighting, sound system, wire wall hanging system, piano, music stands) for any audience, large or small (third-party artists are not precluded from charging a ticket price, accepting donations, or selling their original works; in that case, DIVA will accept a small percentage [15%, or 20% if DIVA administers ticket sales from its website] of the revenues in order to continue to provide this opportunity to local artists)
    • DIVA Ed, educational opportunities on art-related topics, such as last year’s storytelling workshop Broad Shoulders and improvisational theater workshops
    • DIVA Productions, in-house events designed and produced by DIVA, such as our popular Department of Improv on the first Friday of every month and our quarterly Chamber Series (also in the works are evenings of ten-minute plays and writers’ open mic nights)

  • The expansion project would install an elevator in the building expand DIVA’s existing approximately 1,800 square feet to over 8,000 square feet (not including the rooftop deck) and would include:
    • reception space
    • art gallery
    • community conference room
    • recording studio
    • black box theater space
    • performing arts space
    • box office
    • workshop
    • light booth
    • sound booth
    • rooftop deck overlooking Elstro Plaza
  • The project would be done in phases to cause minimal interruption to existing uses of the building. Here’s a nice breakdown of the construction phases.
  • DIVA has asked for funding in the form of grants and/or forgivable loans up to the $1.5 million estimate for the project. There was no expectation that the entirety of the project would be funded by any one source, and Amy and Andy anticipate additional investments on their part as well as potential grant funding from other sources like arts and historic preservation foundations.

Although Richmond’s comprehensive plan is currently undergoing a significant review, we can point to several areas in Richmond’s existing plans that align with DIVA’s goals.

Richmond’s Downtown Plan says:

  • “The Downtown will continue to evolve as the cultural center of the City of Richmond offering citizens a unique lifestyle experience in a vibrant mixed use urban setting. The City of Richmond will continue to value and preserve the rich cultural heritage and historical significance of the Downtown architecture. A transition for Downtown into an exciting retail and entertainment destination in the heart of the city’s arts and entertainment district will occur. Downtown Richmond will become the home for the region’s finest museums and arts-related destinations promoted through advertising, exciting public events, and unique programs. The Downtown will be a desirable place to live with a variety of affordable, attractive housing types, and a great place to work with easily accessible streets, restaurants, amenities, and ample parking. The Downtown will be a place of beauty with well-maintained properties, aesthetically pleasing and walkable streets, enjoyable parks, and abundant green space.”
  • “Promotion of the arts and cultural events in Downtown Richmond is of utmost importance to the overall sustainability of Downtown.”
  • The Plan seeks to “assure that all arts and cultural events are accessible and affordable to all members of the community.”

  • According to a study published by the National Endowment for the Arts in March of 2019, arts and culture play a significant role in the economic activity of the country. Specifically:
    • The average annual growth rate for arts and culture outperforms the growth rate of the total U.S. economy. From 2014 to 2016, the average annual growth rate in the contribution of arts and culture was 4.16 percent, nearly double the 2.22 percent growth rate of the total U.S. economy.
    • Consumer spending of the performing arts has risen significantly. Between 1998 and 2016, the rate of consumer spending on performing arts admissions more than doubled, rising from 0.12 percent of U.S. GDP in 1998 to 0.26 percent, totaling $32.7 billion, in 2016.
  • The most recent study on Arts and Economic Prosperity released by Americans for the Arts finds, “When a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards.”
    • 82% of Americans believe that arts and culture are important to local business and the economy
    • 87% of Americans believe that arts and culture are important to quality of life
    • one-third of an arts event’s audience comes from out of town and pay twice as much into the local economy as local attendees
  • In January of 2019, the National Governors’ Association issued a call to rural communities to use creative sector initiatives in order to become more economically resilient and sustainable.
    • “The arts, culture, and creative sectors contribute to a productive business climate, a diversified economic base, a competitive workforce, a desirable quality of life, and an innovation habitat.”
    • Development strategies to integrate arts and culture into the community include:
      • making targeted investments in cultural and creative institutions
      • providing seed capital for arts and culture
      • subsidizing spaces such as studios, nonprofit galleries, and theaters for practicing and presenting creative products

DIVA has already seen a significant amount of private support in its brief history. In 2018, our first full year of operation, we received over $8,000 in direct public support, nearly $5,000 in grant funding, and nearly $2,000 in program income. To date in 2019, our direct public support has already exceeded $15,000, and our programming has generated nearly $5,000.

The building itself is owned by Dudas Properties, LLC. DIVA does not pay rent and only recently began paying its own utility and janitorial expenses. In fact, the installation of DIVA in the building resulted in the loss of rental revenue from a long-term tenant of the building. This expansion project, when completed, will result in the loss of additional rental revenue from another long-term tenant of the building. To date (through August of 2019), Dudas Properties, LLC, has forgone approximately $20,000 in rental income in order to provide DIVA with facilities.

If funded, we have made certain pledges to ensure that DIVA will live in Downtown Richmond for many generations to come. Those pledges include:

  • DIVA will enter into a lifetime lease that will be binding on future owners, ensuring that it will operate in this location for as long as it exists (this reduces the future marketability of the building)
  • DIVA will not pay rent until it reaches a status of having to file a 990-EZ (currently, annual gross receipts exceeding $50,000)
  • no portion of the building would ever be exempt from real estate property taxes as a result DIVA’s presence in the building (nonprofits are typically exempt from paying taxes)
  • if desired, the City of Richmond would have a designated director position on DIVA’s board

Did you know? When the Richmond Redevelopment Commission invested $500,00 dollars into the historic Depot (owned by First Realty Group, LLC) in 2015, property taxes went from about $8,500 per year to about $34,000 per year! This was after Save the Depot received $500,000 from the Commission in 2010 as well. Talk about a return on investment!

With this summary, it is our hope that we have provided transparent and detailed information regarding our need for funding, our commitment to Richmond’s Downtown and its revitalization, and DIVA’s intended role in community building. We are happy to continue this conversation with anyone who has additional questions or concerns. In addition, we would love your statements of support for this project, in particular when and if public comment is received. If you are willing to stand up and speak for DIVA and its exciting expansion project, we would love to hear from you.

Want to help with your dollars, too? Donations of any size are always appreciated!

DIVA’s entrance to its 1,800 square foot space with a maximum capacity of only 49.

2 thoughts on “DIVA Seeks Funding for Bigger Britches

  1. I hope this project proceeds in a viable and sustainable way. It would make an exciting addition to the community and downtown area.

  2. This project has tremendous potential and appears to fit in to the city’s Comprehensive Plan for downtown development. We need to continue the discussion about its viability.

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