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Final art show this weekend for art co-op in St. Paul that’s losing its building to LRT projects

The coming light rail line connecting the downtowns of Minneapolis and St.

The coming light rail line connecting the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul will bring many improvements along its University Avenue route, but it also means the end of the line for an informal artists’ cooperative that has thrived for many years in a building there, says the Pioneer Press.

The two dozen artists in the Chittenden-Eastman Building — 2402 University Ave. in St. Paul, two blocks east of Hwy. 280 — will hold their last-ever Weekend-Before-Thanksgiving art sale today and Saturday. By next year, they’ll likely have moved out.

The building’s previous owner was facing foreclosure, and now a developer known for high-end retail and condo developments plans to renovate the building into 100 market-rate apartments, if financing comes through. It’s a bet on the upscaling of the neighborhood when light-rail line starts running in 2014 (if it survives the Republican Congress and loss of earmarks).

The art sale — in 20 of the buildings studios today  from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. — is the last hurrah for group members, who are starting to look for new places. Some would like to stick together, but aren’t finding a suitable alternative.

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“The problem now is, where are we all going to go where we can stay together? There is no one place to go,” Karlyn Eckman told the paper. She’s a landscape painter who has leased studio space in the building for five years. “This is an established community of artists — an arts co-op — that will cease to exist.”

Many worry that other artists along the avenue also will be displaced by gentrification of the area brought on by the rail line. Rising rents and loss of on-street parking could hurt small businesses, too.

Dan Mackerman, a painter and sculptor in the building for nine years, will be sad to go:

“I absolutely fell in love with the neighborhood. In those days, there were two coffee shops, three restaurants, a liquor store, a bar, a hardware store, a bank and a grocery store within a block. The rent was cheap — it was $4.50 a square foot — and it stayed that way all through 15 of the 20 years.”