Skip to main content

Karcher Artspace Lofts

Waukegan, Illinois

Housing Development

The development

Downtown Waukegan was once a booming industrial center in the region. With the steady loss of jobs from deindustrialization and the subsequent shift of the local economy, the City made the decision to create a Downtown redevelopment plan, which was completed in 2003. Promoting arts and culture has been a significant part of the economic revitalization effort in the downtown area since the plan was adopted.

Karcher Artspace Lofts was opened in 2013 at the former site of the historic Karcher Hotel, a building which had stood vacant since 1984. Artspace was chosen as the developer for the project as a result of its successful track record in creating affordable, community-oriented spaces for artists and arts organizations around the country. The development drew on a number of different public and private funding sources including both historic and low-income housing tax credits.

Karcher Artspace Lofts has 36 live/work units for artists and their families, in addition to ground floor commercial space that is currently being used as gallery space. Most tenants that live in Artspace identify as artists, though anyone who meets income qualifications can apply for residency. A community-based review committee screens all applicants, and preference is given to those involved and committed to the arts, though applicants do not need to derive their income from their art. Artspace owns the building and manages the property with the intention of providing long-term and well maintained living/working spaces while making every effort to keep the building affordable. Currently, the building is completely leased.

Creating affordability

Thirty-two of the 36 units are affordable to households at 30 percent of area median income (AMI), $23,850 for a family of four in 2014, and 50 percent of AMI, $36,200 for a family of four in 2014. Karcher Lofts has studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom affordable and market rate units. Studio units range from $325 to $620 per month, one-bedrooms range from $350 to $756 per month and two-bedrooms range from $420 to $900 per month. There are also affordable three-bedroom units in the building for larger families that range from $500 to $850 per month.

Public involvement

Waukegan Main Street (WMS), an organization sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and dedicated to downtown revitalization, worked closely with elected officials and Artspace to determine the feasibility of an artist-centered development in Downtown Waukegan. WMS distributed a market survey to Waukegan residents to determine who would be interested in living in the development, and accompanied elected officials on visits to Artspace developments in different cities. Artspace also planned a two-day site visit to Waukegan, where they met with city council members, Waukegan staff, residents and the artist community. A number of meetings were held to hear residents’ concerns and solicit resident input, and a steering committee was formed that weighed in on everything from site selection to fundraising for the project. A group of local residents raised over $250,000 in private donations to help support the project. Despite Artspace being based in Minnesota and having national reach, local contractors and businesses were used for the development of the project when possible.


Department of Community Development, City of Waukegan


<% } %>

  • Target

    Individual applicants and applicants with family sizes and incomes that fall within designated guidelines. Preferable consideration will be given to those applicants who demonstrate their commitment and willingness to participate in the arts.

  • Development information

    Type: Rental Lofts
    Total Units: 36
    Total Affordable Units: 32
    Price Points:

    • Studio: $325-$620/month
    • 1-bedroom: $350-$756/month
    • 2-bedroom: $420-$900/month
    • 3-bedroom: $500-$850/month

  • Funding sources

    • Illinois Housing Development Authority
    • City of Waukegan
    • Lake County
    • IFF
    • JP Morgan Chase
    • Illinois State Appropriation Funds
    • Philanthropic Donations: Total Development Cost: $14.8 million

  • Lessons learned

    • Obtaining tax credits can be a lengthy process. Though multiple layers of financing made this project more complex, it made a better case for the development to be awarded tax credits.
    • Buy-in from multiple stakeholders in the community, such as elected officials, community organizations, residents and the local arts community, is essential.
    • Planning for enough time and resources to rehab and restore a historic building should not be underestimated.

  • Successes

    • Residents of Karcher Artspace Lofts are contributing to downtown revitalization and creating events and opportunities for the public to experience the arts in Waukegan.
    • The building, which stood vacant for over 25 years, was rehabbed in a historically accurate manner and has been returned to productive use.