When Public Art Meets Real Estate, Community and Equity Grow.
What do you do when you purchase an investment property with a nasty reputation in a great location? If you’re Monick Halm, managing partner of Vineyard Investment Partners, you give it a literal makeover and, just as in any other makeover, the “face” plays a huge role in the process. Last spring, Halm, an attorney and real estate developer in addition to being a self-described “real estate investor goddess” (she recently authored a book by the same name), took an Albuquerque multi-family investment property and gave it some permanent makeup in the form of a mural that brought the entire local community together to beautify the building while showcasing interior upgrades and raising property values in the process.
Benefits of Public Art
in•tan•gi•ble: aesthetic beauty, community pride, education, inspiration considered “soft” benefits because they cannot be measured.
tan•gi•ble: occupancy (Monique raised occupancy nearly 30 percent), publicity (news coverage is nearly always positive, free advertising), can be used to attract additional publicity and licensing opportunities, gratitude from “fans” of public art which leads to publicity etc.
Note: this is all highly subject to your specific community and target market.
“This property had a really bad reputation before we bought it. We wanted to not just bring the building up to standard; we wanted to completely reposition it so that it would have an updated look that would appeal to Millennials,” Halm said. She and her husband, Peter Halm, have more than a decade of real estate investing experience in single- and multifamily properties and mobile home parks under their belts and specialize in using community-oriented processes to raise the value of their investment properties. Once the Halms and their co-investors decided upon a mural as the outward-facing indicator of the building’s new interior, Halm got to work.
“There is a huge wall on the side of the property that has great visibility. You can see it from the freeway and several major streets,” she said. “We really wanted to have locals involved in the project so that we did not just have a mural, but a community event that would create interest and engagement.” Halm partnered with We Are This City, a local Albuquerque arts organization that specialize in community art projects, and selected a local Native American muralist named Cloud Face to design the mural, which features a young girl holding a flower and a large hummingbird on a colorful background.
The entire community came together to kick the project off, with Halm and her group providing fire extinguishers full of paint and paint-filled water balloons that the crowds used to create the colorful background for the mural. “We invited the local schools, the residents, everyone in the community engaged,” she said. “The wall is 60-by-40 feet, but we did not even have to use ladders to get the background done. Fire extinguishers have quite the range and we were able to keep all of our artists other than Cloud Face on the ground!”
After the initial event, Cloud Face immediately got to work painting the finer features of the mural over its bright new background. Halm and her investors expect to see long-term payoffs from the project in the form of increased rental rates and popularity of the living spaces, but they also enjoyed some immediate benefits. “We held an open house the day of the event and leased three apartments that day,” she said, adding that the event showcased how desirable the area around the building has become and that in the two months following, occupancy rose from 60 percent to 90 percent. The new tenants are, as Halm predicted, in the coveted Millennial demographic that values the advantages her building offers. “It is walking distance to the Uptown shopping area, the Apple Store, the movie theater, all sorts of shops, boutiques and restaurants. It was just that no one had touched the inside [of the property] since probably 1977 and the outside wasn’t much better. Now, we’ve made beautiful upgrades and the art event really highlighted that we have a new product and a new community.”
Getting Started With Public Art
Think that your investment properties could benefit from a public art project? Here are a few things to consider before you start creating:
Who will see the project?
Your project should be positioned in such a way as to attract as many eyes in your target market as possible.
Who will participate?
Community art requires community participation! You will get the best results if you incorporate local arts organizations or other groups that will not only assist you in the artistic process but will also publicize the event and help you select an appropriate design for your goals and the local area.
Do you have the right permissions?
You will likely need to work with the city government to get permission to paint, and in some cases, you may need to check in with a homeowners’ association or chamber of commerce as well. You may need to submit designs in multiple locations for approval or follow a predetermined set of guidelines for your design.