Studios, the City and Building owners

Years ago when opening my first studio, there were a lot of vacant buildings in downtown Aurora. A good spot to open a studio. Why was I looking there? Aurora has not enjoyed an outstanding community reputation over the years. People questioned whether it was safe to be there. Well, I was part of a co-op prior to me going on my own full time. The co-op was in downtown Aurora, on Downer Place and it was a wonderful space for studio. I came to like the city, I appreciated its attempts to clean up, make it more palatable to the masses and somehow lots of artists were establishing roots. I think the cheaper rents also had a lot to do with it, along with a lot of vacant space. 

Since that time, the city of Aurora has continued its efforts to develop downtown. So much so that they started giving away empty buildings in need of repair and worked with banks to provide cheap loans, and grants fronting all this with "civic" investment groups hoping to marry the serious business owner/leasee's looking for space with those "new" owners and developers of the empty, free space. A lot of investors were attracted to Aurora because they envisioned growth, really good interest rates and free property. Taxes are relatively low too. They could flip properties and make a killing. What business owner/lessee's like myself started to experience were rapidly increasing leasing prices. Prospectors figured hey, with cheap loans and grants, lets charge 2x or 3x the old price and we can have the spaces occupied while reaping the benefits of low bank rates. Easy money. So developers developed. They seem to be bent on developing the spaces they are basically divided into parcels that can give them lots of units per square foot, but the spaces they create(d) are small, odd shaped and not conducive to what most businesses need. They aren't developing with business in mind; more for how many leases they can get.  So if they create several small spaces from a larger one, they can get four to five leases instead of a larger one. Small leases they think will be smaller payments and easier on businesses. More attractive. What isn't realized is many businesses need MORE space not less. Businesses want to expand, not contract. A business in the wrong space, won't be in business too long. So with development unchecked, Aurora is still very vacant. Years later and down the road, owners will still have vacant spaces and investments to rectify with the bank and they will complain to the city that they can't fill their empty spaces. No one wants them. They created closets and people wanted rooms. 

I'm not going to get into the lying and deceit that these developers trade in (not much anyway)  while courting you as their tenants. They will lead you on, knowing they are killing your business, but thats of little concern. They will try to change the agreement made into another agreement, the old bait and switch. Show one property, make a deal and then "oh wait, its going to take more time so take this one instead" while I work on the other - but don't expect a time line on when the property you wanted to build your business on, the one they "sold" you on, is to be ready. They have to get occupants, their grants depend on it, so they will lie to any extent to make it work. Happened to me four eleven months now. I'm finished with it. I'm finished with Aurora. I don't trust any of the owners and wouldn't occupy any of their properties if offered for free. Every property I tried to lease, four of them, are still vacant. My old studio is still vacant. But it was vacant for nine years prior to me being in it for three years. I think this vacant building thing is the future of Aurora. I hope I am wrong because I got to know several good business owners and people working on Aurora's behalf. I would like to see their efforts succeed but I'm not going to be part of it. I'm outta here. 

Whats ironic about all this is I was prepping for a major change to my business model. I had partners, more influx of cash and equipment. We proposed leasing TWO spaces within a year but we desperately needed one now. But that space we coveted, the one shown to us by the developer and pushed by him, that isn't going to happen. Because he got tied up with the city and their investment group and under contract he has to develop a new, different space because he has loans and grants to satisfy now. So we are out. Of course unless we want to pursue the space he is developing which isn't suitable for anything I can think of, let alone a photography studio. Great job by the investment team of Aurora. Shut out a business to create more empty space. 

I have no idea of when or where I will open a studio. I have a lot to think about. I am in business but my business model thrives on having a studio so I have to rethink everything. I'm working out of a space in my house - and thats not going to make it. I hope to have news someday but right now, I just am not hopeful.