In 2015 an unlikely crew—artists, developer, coffee-shop owner—forged an alliance to buy a historic building in Pioneer Square. We dubbed it the Good Arts Building, in an homage to the “Good Eats Cafeteria” that once occupied it, and also as a statement of their purpose. Since its inception, Pioneer Square has historically been home to the performing and visual arts. During economic down-times, artists have snatched up cheap warehouse space, while scrappy black-box theatres claimed dilapidated storefronts, revitalizing the neighborhood in the process. Artists, theatres, art galleries and small quirky businesses have given the neighborhood its identity and “vibrancy” as they say nowadays. The Good Arts Building was founded so that these creators of cultural and economic value could stick around to reap the benefits.
Our model for sustainability harvests the synergy of the complementary businesses that occupy the building: the studio artists attract attendees to exhibitions and events; those attendees patronize the restaurants and shops. A guy who comes in for a haircut buys a vintage suit and has it tailored, all without leaving the building. Part of the coffeehouse doubles as a gallery, bringing interest to the restaurant and income to the artists.
The arts were infused into every corner, raising the foot traffic and the value of the location, while the rents of the studios remained affordable to creative small businesses, yet sustainable for the building. Over the past five years, work spaces for artists have alarmingly disappeared across the city: In the same period, Good Arts added 14 studios to ’57 Biscayne’s existing 14, plus a street-level arcade of maker and micro-retail spaces.
A boutique guest rental for overnight stays supplements our revenues. Moreover, a model of 100% occupancy, rather than the traditional 80%, along with the creative use of underutilized spaces, has allowed us to pay our bills while still maintaining affordability.
In 2017, we combined our three corner storefronts to create a new anchor location for Cherry Street Coffee House, with a stunning remodel by Atelier Drome architects. That same year, we converted a neighboring long-vacant storefront into Good Arts Arcade, consisting of four boutique-sized retail spaces that open on to a central gallery, currently occupied by a bespoke tailor, hair design studio, and a perfumerie.
We also gave the exterior its first paint job in over twenty years, with a new color scheme designed by the resident artists. Customized steel flower basket hangers, featuring pictorial nods to the buildings’ colorful occupants past and present, and handmade by owners Richlovsky and Coulter, reinforce our identity and add visual interest. In 2019, Bad Bishop Bar picked up the final storefront and gave it a gorgeous makeover, opening to rave reviews.
As it turns out, making space for the arts was a really good business decision. This year, when the restaurants and retail tenants saw a precipitous drop in revenues, or had to close entirely, our rental receipts took a hit, just like those of every commercial building owner. However, the art studio tenants have paid rent in full every month of the pandemic, and helped us get through the year.
Our tenants and partners continue to creatively respond to challenges: Cherry Street Coffee, a daytime business, is making room in the mezzanine for Sake Nomi tasting room, an evening destination. They will share some seating (when we can sit inside again), and their coexistence will add to the dynamism of the whole. We invested in community when we bought this building, and community is what is helping us survive.
This year, we are looking for additional partner-owners, people who share our vision of a world where creatives reap the benefits of their work, to help write the Good Arts Building’s next chapter. It’s an opportunity to invest in the creative economy and Seattle’s future. Contact us if this sounds like you.