NoDa's Fat City Lofts embraces art of graffiti

Never underestimate the interest in graffiti in NoDa.

Back in June, the developers of Fat City Lofts asked people for opinions on how to cover the uptown-facing side of their 70-foot tall building at North Davidson and East 35th streets.

They displayed the works of five potential graffiti artists and printed 250 ballots for people to vote their preferences.

“We ran out of ballots and had to ask them to write on the backs,” said Doggett Advertising's Heather Coggins, who is assisting developer BlueSky Partners with the art project.

The event was held on a gallery crawl night, so participants ranged from neighborhood residents to artists to browsing visitors, she said.

No one was shy about offering suggestions for the mural:

“No blood or scariness,” wrote one person.

“No political statements,” scribbled another.

“Leave off the terrorists,” advised one voter.

As the votes were tallied and the diverse opinions were analyzed, Coggins said, it became apparent this would be a job requiring more than one artist.

“The five artists had worked together before on other installations, and it just made sense with all the community involvement to have several instead of only one,” she said.

Now she's coordinating the details of painting the side of the building and aiming toward a Sept. 19 event in conjunction with a neighborhood gallery crawl.

Perhaps you recognize some of the selected artists: OBSOE, REBUS, ALOHA and JAFAR.

They don't want their real names used, Coggins said, because they've done graffiti works around town and signed their artist names, which they believe fans will recognize.

The developers are covering their expenses, but the artists are taking the job mainly “to see their artwork go up,” she said. “This will be a signature piece in NoDa.”

The decorated wall will replace the graffiti-splashed façade of Fat City Deli, which was destroyed on the same site by high winds a year ago. The deli, a neighborhood landmark, opened in the early 1990s and closed about five years ago.

Nostalgic passersby will be able to watch the artists. The developers hope they will finish by Sept. 19. Their planned public event then would become an unveiling, with guests invited to tour a finished Fat City Lofts condo.

“We're hoping to integrate the lofts into the fabric of the neighborhood,” said BlueSky Partners' Eric Vargosko. “This will be the final step in doing that.”

Fat City Lofts, which includes 26 condos and 8,000 square feet of street-level retail space, illustrates NoDa's transition from restored mill houses to commercial and multifamily development.

Fifteen units are under contract for purchase, and two retail bays totaling about 2,500 square feet remain available.

Vargosko said tenants will include a coffee shop/Internet cafe and an upscale restaurant. The remaining condos are priced from about $315,000.

BlueSky Partners is providing development and marketing services for Crosland and Merrifield Partners, the owners of the $8 million project.

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