The Jax Building, one of the last non-residential artists’ spaces in Lowertown, will be sold Feb. 1 and redeveloped, it was learned Sunday.
The announcement caused concern among the building’s current tenants, who fear they may not find studio space elsewhere.
The building, at 253 Fourth St. E., currently houses the Show Gallery Lowertown, the Classical Ballet Academy and the nonprofit organization Books for Africa. Its upper levels are rented on a month-to-month basis to artists who use the space to create new work.
John O’Brien manages the building, which is owned by his wife’s father. He said he does not know what VoR Jax, LLC, the company that is buying the building, plans to do with it.
“I’ve only heard bits and pieces of what they are planning,” he said.
O’Brien said the family was not actively looking to sell the building, but recent interest from prospective buyers made the concept appealing.
“We weren’t that keen to sell the building. We just thought it would have to be a really good offer, and that’s what we got — a really good offer,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said two other parties expressed interest in buying Jax before the deal was struck with VoR Jax, LLC, and several more made inquiries after the deal was struck but before it was publicized.
In a letter to current tenants, VoR Jax said they will be allowed to occupy their spaces for three months after the Feb. 1 expected closing date.
O’Brien called the current tenants “a truly remarkable group of talented artists.”
“Should the new owners not want to accommodate them, I do not know where they’re going to go,” he said.
Tom Reynen, the vice president of the St. Paul Art Collective, said he found it ironic that artists, who gave Lowertown its Bohemian appeal, are now being pushed out of the area by gentrification.
“It’s a lot like the Minneapolis Warehouse District. They used to have art crawls and galleries. Those are all restaurants now. It’s kind of the same thing,” Reynen said. “Lowertown used to be a wasteland and artists moved in because they could get cheap rent and big windows. Now, they’re being priced out. It’s a classic story, really.”