Developer Neil Dipaola notified about 100 people who’d expressed interest in participating in his proposed Funk Zone Arts Village plan — in which artists would lease modified shipping containers for use as a temporary studio space — that he’s shelved the proposal; those who submitted application fees got their money returned. The planning DNA of City Hall, Dipaola said, was incapable of processing an application that fell so far outside the customary lines. Part of the challenge was that he had proposed a “temporary” pop-up village of 13 containers on a 1.7-acre parcel by Mason and Gray streets that would have an indefinite life span.
According to city planning guidelines, any proposal with an anticipated life expectancy greater than six months needs to abide by many of the strictures required of permanent developments. As a result, the funky, artsy, makeshift social engineering petri dish Dipaola envisioned needed sidewalks, parking, and lighting. He had to capture storm water on-site in the event of heavy rains. And the container shells could be used only for passive storage; artists would not be allowed to work in them.
Dipaola said he intends to donate $40,000 to nonprofits supporting the arts in the Funk Zone and that he will host arts-related events on the site. He also just submitted his long-term plans for the parcel, which includes a four-story mixed-use project with a hotel, restaurant, apartment-condos, and retail stores. Because this proposal exceeds the development currently allowed on the site, Dipaola will need to make significant modifications.