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Greg Handberg Artspace

Connecting Real Estate and the Arts

by Brittney Mitchell Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wisconsin School of Business alumnus and real estate expert Greg Handberg recently shared his expertise with students from the UW Real Estate Club and the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, discussing the connection between business and the arts.

Handberg, a Wisconsin School of Business real estate graduate, is the senior vice president of properties for Artspace, a non-profit development company that provides affordable commercial and residential space for artists, creative businesses, and creative organizations. Based in Minneapolis, the organization runs a network of 35 affordable arts facilities in 13 states.

According to Handberg, the mission of Artspace is pretty simple: create space for artists to live, work, and collaborate, as well as be a resource for local communities. He said that when a community is wrestling with a challenge—like the loss of a strong arts culture—Artspace can help.

An example is Artspace’s Tannery Lofts in Santa Cruz, Calif. Handberg tells the story of a once desirable tourist destination with a strong arts community. However, as housing costs increased, that community began to dwindle. Bolz Center Artspace event with UW Real Estate Club and Greg Handberg

Artspace was called in to help redevelop the site into an arts-centered cultural hub. The $42.2 million project created 100 live/work units with a total of 180,000 square feet of space. The end result is a rejuvenated arts culture for Santa Cruz.

Arts Administration MBA student Sherry Shaffer said she was struck by Artspace’s accomplishments.

“I love seeing artists using business tools to help themselves as much as businesses use art in this way,” Shaffer said. “Everyone in the arts now wants to make the connection between art, business, and community.”

Handberg also works to actively fight stereotypes about artists.

“Artists are the perfect micro-businesses,” he said. “People talk about artists not being good business people, this just isn’t true. Artists are the most incredible entrepreneurs I’ve ever seen in my life—they create businesses.”

This is the second year business students had the chance to learn from an Artspace leader. Bolz Center for Arts Administration Director Sherry Wagner-Henry was eager for her students to learn from a company that lives the same values the Bolz Center teaches its students.

“The fact that we can talk about a project that really brings a sort of the marriage between real estate and the arts is very exciting,” Wagner-Henry said. “We love the opportunity to bring in speakers like Greg to show students how we all do our work differently, but collaboratively.”