Almost a year ago, local artists crowded into a room at City Hall.

The meeting evolved into a rally of sorts for York City's creative community, the folks who might take advantage of a hypothetical artist-housing project in York.

Since then, local officials have been working behind the scenes with a Minneapolis-based nonprofit to gauge whether York would support the type of development Artspace has been building for decades.

A few months after the meeting, Artspace delivered a preliminary report to York.

"Basically what we said was we think there's a good possibility that there's a strong artist market in and around York, which means that, if a project were built, there would be enough artists to fill it," said Roy Close, the nonprofit's vice president of special projects.

Later this month, Artspace will launch the next phase of its fact-finding mission.

An online survey will be available to the public starting Wednesday, Jan. 22, the same day as a 6 p.m. kickoff event at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.

Artspace is hoping many people, especially creative types, will attend the event and take the survey during the two months it will be available, Close said.

"The more people know about it, the more people will take the survey and the better the results will be," he said. "Our goal is to get a whole bunch of people in the room and tell them so that they tell their friends."

The goal: The survey will help Artspace determine whether York can support an artist-housing project large enough to make the investment worthwhile. Typically, Artspace aims for a threshold of 30 units it can expect to fill quickly and sustainably, Close said.

"It takes as much time to do a tax-credit application for a 30-unit project as for a 70-unit project," he said. "There is an economy of scale for us."

Artspace formed in 1979 with the goal of providing long-term affordable housing for creative people. That business model works, Close said, because Artspace carefully analyzes the prospective market before building and then remains the property's owner so it can maintain affordable rent.

For example, if 120 people who take the survey indicate an intent to move into artist housing, Artspace will assume about 40 would follow through, Close said.

"We operate very conservatively in terms of deciding where to put a project. We won't put a project into a community where we don't think that there's an excellent chance of it being successful," he said.

-- Reach Erin James at