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Your theater group is growing, you are an artist and interested in exploring live/work options or you have found out that your lease on your performance space will not be renewed - whatever your situation - It might be time to move!

The most important aspect of moving to a new space, whether it is leased or purchased is to:

Be prepared!

Think about why you need a new space. Do you need more storage? A bigger performance space? Better access for your clients, colleagues or students? More parking options? Lots of windows or more open space or better ventilation? Your answers will help you define and direct your search.

While brainstorming, try to answer these five fundamental questions:

  1. What size of space do you need?

  2. What type of space do you need?

  3. What can you afford?

  4. Which neighborhoods can provide you with the space you want and need at a price you can afford?

  5. Which neighborhoods offer the professional and artistic support systems you need to thrive as an artist, business or organization?

Many other questions will arise that will be unique to your situation and needs: Do you have particular space layout requirement? Do you need a space that can accommodate several art production methods? Do you rehearsal, performance and office space? You might end up with a very long list!

Once you've articulated your needs, prioritize them. Try to spend at least an hour or more devoted to this step. Round up all major stakeholders -- including those who will work and/or live in the new space -- to participate in this exercise, so that the final list of priorities, wants and needs will reflect each person's concerns.

If your need for space is urgent, and you do not have time to go through the first step, at least read Chapter 6: Residential Leases and Chapter 7: Commercial and Industrial Leases. These contain critical information on expenses you might be liable for over and above your rent, as well as your rights and responsibilities in most residential and commercial or industrial leases. If you are thinking of purchasing, review Chapter 8: Buying Real Estate for information on how the lending process works.

Tip: If you are leasing space make sure to keep in contact with you landlord periodically especially as the end of your lease nears - try and get a sense of the landlord's intention regarding renewing the lease. Even if you feel secure in your space it is never a bad idea to have a preemptive plan should something unexpected occur.

Assessing Your Needs

To determine the size and type of space you need, begin by reviewing your current workspace layout. Do you have enough wall space, storage space, etc.? Is the location right? Is it too big, or too small? What do you need more or less of in your new space? Do you wish to combine your living and working spaces?

Space Layout

The Space Layout Requirement Worksheets help you to compare the layout and total square footage of your current space with a potential new space. As you complete the worksheets, disregard categories that do not apply to your situation, while keeping two things in mind:

  1. What type of activities will occur in the room?

  2. What type of furniture and/or equipment will the space need to accommodate?

In determining the total square footage requirements for your new work or live/work space, don't forget to include features such as the hallways between enclosed rooms, or the amount of space around a work station -- typically, an additional 15-30% added to your total square footage. For spaces of 1,500 square feet and up, it might be wise to use the services of an interior designer or space planner in order to create a layout that optimizes efficiency and accuracy in measurement.

Space Analysis

Will your new space need a loading dock? An Auditorium? More parking? Room for residential quarters? The Space Analysis Worksheets will help you answer these questions by getting you to analyze your current space. Ignore questions irrelevant to your particular situation.

Google's SketchUp is a useful and free design and layout tool.

TIP: Arts organizations and businesses should enlist more than one person in searches for space, so that individuals' preferences do not outweigh the needs of the entire group.

Further Questions

As you fine-tune your space needs, also consider the following questions:

  • Can you be productive in a residential space?

  • Do you need commercial/industrial space?

  • Do you want to lease or buy?

  • Have you considered buying space -- either alone or with colleagues? See Chapter 8: Buying Real Estate and Chapter 11: Models of Ownership for more information.

  • How many occupants share your current space? How many will share your next space?

  • Which locations do you prefer?

  • When can you move?

  • What is your budget?

  • What special features must a space offer in order to accommodate your art practice?

  • If leasing, how long must the lease last?

  • Will you have to store or dispose of toxic materials?

  • Are there any other requirements you need to address?

  • Might your long-term plans, or those of your organization, affect the use or need of the space?

  • Do you need to frequently accommodate gatherings of people? If so, how many?

  • What, if any, are the deficiencies of your current space?

Next Steps

If you've completed the worksheets, you might be wondering, "What does all this mean?" At the very least, these exercises have gotten you to focus on your space needs and, hopefully, identify more of them.

In addition, the worksheets form a handy, written summary that can serve as your guide when evaluating potential spaces. As you refine your needs, revisit these worksheets. Invite others who will share or use the space to also complete them.

Be prepared!
Assessing Your Needs
Space Layout
Space Analysis
Further Questions
Next Steps
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