Mutiny at Milepost 5 

Residents Get Uppity at High-Profile Live-Work Arts Project

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THREE MONTHS AGO, Mayor Sam Adams cut the ribbon on Milepost 5 to grand applause, dedicating the ambitious NE 82nd Avenue live-work affordable-housing project for artists.

But trying to create an "intentional community" with over 100 artists in two rehabbed buildings, as it turns out, is no piece of cake.

Some residents report they are near "mutiny" with the management of this unique project, saying the developers have broken promises and failed to deliver on various amenities.

On Monday, July 25, a policy coordinator in the mayor's office and a professional mediator led a meeting between residents and Milepost 5 management, hoping to resolve the bubbling tensions.

Beam Development spent four years renovating two aging buildings on NE 82nd to create the 166 studios, apartments, and condos that make up Milepost 5. Rent is cheap (condos range from $84,000 to $234,000 and apartments from $190 to $400 a month) but problems began as soon as residents moved in last October. The management wound up offering rent abatements for renters who filed complaints about broken pipes and lack of hot water ["Milepost 5's Milestones," Arts, April 14].

Now, tenants say they're fed up with a long list of maintenance concerns and what they consider misleadingly advertised amenities. Tenants thought there would be an organic garden and tool library on the studio site—it opened with neither. The elevator was out of service for months. There's little bike parking, so bikes are stored in a hallway where a 140-square-foot chunk of asbestos insulation was removed two weeks ago, after a patch recently developed a large tear.

"There's a bunch of disgruntled people over here at the mayor's pet project. We're pretty fed up with it," says 60-year-old artist John Berry, who rents three rooms in the studio building. "We have to fight for everything they promised us."

Director of Operations Jonathan Malsin responds that the buildings' residents and management are trying to create a complicated, new type of housing project—and on a limited budget in order to keep rent low.

"It's absolutely not without its challenges," says Malsin. "When you give people ownership over a community, they're going to be really passionate."

He chalks up some of the tension to misunderstandings. There was a garden at the condo building, for example, but not the studios when it opened (there is one now). The tool library was something people talked about, he says, but Milepost 5 never promised they would be the ones to pull it together.

"We've delivered some of the most affordable rent in the city. We've provided as many amenities as possible within our limited budget," he says. "There's no blueprint for Milepost 5."


This article has been corrected from its original version—it originally stated that there is no garden at the studios building.

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