west oakland warehouse

Screenshot: American Steel People/Vimeo

American Steel Studios is committed to providing affordable spaces for artists to work, but for over two years, that goal has been threatened. Its long-term lease on the West Oakland warehouse it sublets to over 200 artists expired in July 2014, and when that happened it began renting month to month as landlord Maurice Kanbar searched for a buyer.

Many artists who use the space were concerned that a new owner would mean displacement, but in an unexpected twist there was a much different outcome when the building finally sold last week. A group of Oakland developers purchased it, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, they’ve promised “to keep the tenants and sustain American Steel as a hub for the city’s creative class.”

“We really love old buildings. And we just like to invest in the infrastructure that is Oakland, and we want to see it grow,” said Gerris Wilkinson, one of the developers.

The news has brought much relief for the building’s users, and it’s not hard to see why. The warehouse offers access to unique resources such as cranes, and large-scale projects, some of which have been displayed at the popular Burning Man festival, are encouraged. The space is also used for events focusing on art and activism — the current one, called “ICONIC: Black Panther,” is open to the public.

The warehouse’s new owners plan to make improvements to the building, and have said that rent will increase accordingly in May 2017. Time will tell if their promises to keep the space affordable hold true.

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