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Follow-up Note About Residency Program Ending

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A follow up note to address the concerns about the 30 day notice and give more details about the issues that make the Collingwood Arts Center (CAC) building unsuitable for full time residents, but will still allow for studio, office space and event use.

We decided on a 30 day notice for three primary reasons. The first is simple - everyone here is on a month-to-month lease. We are unable to continue to pay the overhead that goes with rental usage for a period longer than 30 days. The CAC is currently owed over $10,000 in unpaid rent from our current residents. It is sad, but we are unable to continue to assist people that are unable to pay rent as we have in the past. The CAC’s mission was never assist residents financially beyond low rental prices. However, over the years due to high-staff and board turnover, we’ve drifted off course. We simply don’t have the expertise or resources of a social services agency to give the aid that is needed. Finally, the facility’s issues are potentially severe enough that if things worsen, all residents would have to leave with little or no notice.

Our building has significant heating, electrical, and plumbing issues. The facility is heated with hot water boilers. While we possess three boilers to heat our residential areas, only two are currently functioning. With one boiler not working, we cannot keep comfortable temperatures this winter – the building ranges from cold to very cold. Our plan is that once the upper floors are vacated, we can insulate the radiators and thus keep more heat in the system. This will keep the lower floors warmer and suitable for studio or office space.

Adding to the heating problems, are issues with electricity. The entire CAC facility has approximately 200 amps of electric service entering the building. Additionally, the residential portions of the building have not been significantly upgraded since 1906 and do no support modern appliances and computers.  On average, three residential rooms are on one 15 amp fuse. This not an ideal situation at any time, but this winter it is especially problematic. Residents feel the need to run space heaters to stay warm which taxes the system, blows fuses and leaves residents without electricity. At worst, this creates potential fire hazards. Studio, office space and event rentals will not require such continuous use.

Just like much of the electricity, the CAC’s plumbing is original to the building. A few months ago, a sewer pipe failed. This forced us to close one of our four residential bathrooms. Leaving three bathrooms for approximately 30 residents to share. This puts additional strain on the aging restroom and shower facilities. Further when the severe weather hit, we had two water pipes burst. This created significant general damage to the building, but also knocked out the water heater that serviced the building. As a result, we are using a residential-grade electric water heater. This is not enough hot water for all the residents in a building.  Another hard freeze could further and likely will damage the 100 year-old pipes to the extent where water to the residential part of the building would have to be shut off. Our current financial situation will not allow us to quickly remedy the situation.

We understand that giving a 30 day notice to long-term residents is not the ideal situation. We knew that this would be not a popular decision within the community. However, as a landlord we are currently unable to guarantee a safe, comfortable living experience for our residents. Our building is 108 years old and not getting any younger. We need to drastically lighten the usage of the building to extend its life. Hopefully, giving us more time to restore and repair. Time is especially important given the limited financial resources.

Our efforts now have to be directed at saving the building while still maintaining an arts center. We’re saddened at the loss of our residents and the life, joy and art that they brought to the facility. However, our old business model was failing. The CAC simply did not have the capacity to continue forward on the same path. Our path forward is uncertain, but we now know that success is an option.