Monday, September 8, 2014

The Sugar Space - River District

Posted By on September 8, 2014, 11:00 AM

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Whether it's a professional company or an independent troupe, the Sugar Space in Sugar House has always had an open door to anyone of the performing arts to utilize their facility for practice, classes or performances. In the past couple of years, things started to shift when the Space's resources become maxed out and they were unable to allow new additions, which made founder Brittany Reese look for a new spot to and a bigger area that would accommodate everything they wanted to do. This led her to Sugar Space's new second warehouse facility in the River District on 130 South 800 West. Today we chat with Reese about the new location and the plans for both spaces. (All pictures courtesy of The Sugar Space.)

Brittany Reese

Gavin: Hey Brittany, first off, how have you been since we last chatted?

Brittany: Things are great! Thanks for asking. After a couple of years of working on opening up our new Arts Warehouse we finally received our Certificate of Occupancy and business license about three weeks ago. It feels great to see the project come to fruition and all the stress and hard work is beginning to pay off.

Gavin: During that time, how have things been doing at the Sugar Space in Sugar House?

Brittany: Things are great in Sugar House. We weren't sure if we would keep both locations, but were approached by Westminster College because they were looking for a dance studio for their new BFA Dance Program. Our space was a good fit for them and we were able to secure a lease and offer them daytime space for their dance classes. We are thrilled about the new partnership and hope it grows in the future.

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Gavin: What have things been like during the construction and now service of the Streetcar Line?

Brittany: The construction really didn't affect us much as it happened behind our building. The bike and walking path that runs along the streetcar line is scheduled to open Sept. 19 and they will be having activities along the trail that afternoon and evening. We will have an open house as part of the celebration. I suggest you check it out as it is really becoming a walkable, fun neighborhood. It is exciting to see a greenway open up right next to us as well as improved public transportation and accessibility. The area has changed a lot since we moved in seven years ago.

Gavin: Getting right to it, how did the decision come about to find a new location?

Brittany: In 2011, our client base was full and we had reached the top of our occupancy level in Sugar House. We were also realizing the limitations of our one-room space for the variety of activities that we were hosting. With seller financing and the support of the SLC Revolving Loan Fund we were able to get a down payment and seed money and buy a set of buildings in the River District area of SLC. With this new facility we have a space that is better equipped for our variety of uses, we are also building equity as opposed to renting, as we had been doing. We have increased our profits, and we feel and hope that we are adding a great asset to this already vibrant west side neighborhood of Salt Lake.

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Gavin: How did you come across the spot in the River District?

Brittany: I was working with a realtor for about six months to find something that was versatile, affordable, central to Salt Lake City, close to public transportation and something I could see working for a variety of arts events. This set of buildings fit the bill.

Gavin: How did you eventually come to terms on the building and what was the condition it was in when you first took over?

Brittany: In the beginning, no banks would consider giving us funding. After some creative thinking, we were able to make a deal with the seller for seller financing to get us started. After we made that arrangement we were able to approach SLC and get a loan. After receiving the loan and showing some payment history on it for awhile, we were also able to subsequently secure an SBA loan through Zions Bank. Because of the size of the project (and our lack of purchasing and renovation funds), we had to reach out to everyone and were lucky enough to receive a Salt Lake County Cultural Facilities Grant to convert the bare bones property which included a warehouse, detached studio, covered patio and converted house into a functional arts and events center. We also could not have done it without help of dancer/dance teacher/arts lover Debby Robertson who became an investor in the project. In addition, we “found” and were also donated thousands of dollars worth of theatrical materials from a variety of community members including Another Language Performing Company and more. While I am giving a shout out to the people who made it happen, I cannot leave out Helen Seltzer from SCORE business mentoring (an absolute godsend), various city council and community members who fought for us, local volunteers and friends and family who donated their time and money to the project. It took a village!

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Gavin: What was it like converting the space into something usable for performance art?

Brittany: The transition from a dilapidated warehouse with fuel tanks on site, barbed wire around the perimeter, boarded up windows and a deteriorating parking lot was not an easy one. The renovation included addition of all new plumbing, installation of fire alarm and fire sprinkling system, bringing the metal frame to current earthquake codes, providing ADA access, installing all new HVAC and electrical work, providing insulation, landscaping, exterior lighting and asphalt for the parking lot, installing a dance floor, buying equipment and the list goes on and on. We were lucky to partner with architect Joe Prudden/Arkology and Horne Construction, Inc. The warehouse, with 24-foot ceilings, was basically a storage unit four months ago. Now it is a fun, funky and functional arts and events center that is unique and memorable. We will continue to add upgrades to the space on a weekly basis—probably forever.

Gavin: For those who haven't seen the building, what do you have to offer on the property?

Brittany: We have over a half acre with a private lot for parking, taco carts, vendors—you name it. There are three buildings on the property for a total square footage of 10,000 square feet including a covered patio. Many rooms can serve dual purposes but overall the property has amenities like professional sprung dance floor, dimmable track lighting, art gallery, installation space, event and performance space for up to 350 people, professional sound system, 150 chairs, meeting spaces, reception, coat check, theatrical lighting, garage doors that open for events and/or load in and load out, etc.

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Gavin: I know there's been some rumblings of activity there prior to opening. What have you been using it for so far?

Brittany: August Osage County presented by Silver Summit Theater and Utah Repertory Theater just closed their performances at our new venue. They opened their play the day after we got our business license and had 12 performances, seven of which sold out. In our gallery, currently, we are featuring 15 artists from Art at the Main. Also, some of the groups who meet in our space are SLCTap, Tango Group, Wayne Belko Aikido, community and support Groups, and theater groups and dancers for rehearsals. A visual artist has a dedicated 24/7 space and Youth Empowerment Project just finished a summer camp there. In addition we just had an independent filmmaker install a projection screen for intimate monthly independent film screenings.

Gavin: Once you fully open, what will the downtown location serve as for the community?

Brittany: We hope that people in the community will come to our weekly open gallery hours as well as hold their private and professional events there. We hope they use our space to host their own programs, show their art and produce performances. We are also hoping to have an ongoing exchange with the community, gather feedback and constantly update our programs to meet the needs of those we serve. A future goal is to not only make the space for local artists but a place to bring and showcase artists nationally and internationally which we have touched on over the past seven years.

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Gavin: What are the first set of performances you have lined up for the new spot?

Brittany: This month we will be one of the venues for the SLC Comedy Carnivale. We are hosting a couple of weddings, a business launch party for 350 people and are thrilled to be the host space for the City Weekly ARTYS Party. Our grand opening party will also feature a variety of performers.

Gavin: For those interested, how can they contact you to utilize the space?

Brittany: Send us an email at or call us at 888-300-7898. I love getting proposals from artists and community members for events, classes, exhibits and more.

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Gavin: What's going to become of the Sugar House location?

Brittany: With the exciting partnership with Westminster college just beginning, we hope that the facility and our programs will continue to expand, grow and thrive in new and improved ways and we will run both facilities concurrently for the foreseeable future.

Gavin: You have a big banquet happening Sept. 13 to kick off the opening. What festivities will there be?

Brittany: I am very excited about our Grand Opening Party on Sept. 13, from 7 p.m. to Midnight. We will have delicious food and drinks, awesome performances, fabulous video installations and artwork, friends, DJ, dance party and a chance to show gratitude to all of our supporters and have a blast. Performers include: SBDance, Chingi Chang, ToySoup Comedy, DJ James Ramirez, Two Boots, SLCTap, Elizabeth Stitch Aerialist, Utah Repertory Theater Company, Transfusion Hype, Speaker Fernando Maneca from BAX/NYC Brooklyn Arts Exchange, NeighborWorks Salt Lake, Art by Artists at the Main Library, Catering by Brown Brothers Catering and more! Tickets are still available both to the dinner portion and to the after party on our website or by calling 888-300-7898.

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Gavin: What can we expect from you and Sugar Space over the rest of the year?

Brittany: This year, I will be busy trying to get the word out about all of the new square footage we have to offer and try to get it booked. I will also continue to put paint on walls and add amenities to the facility. As far as programming, we will continue our artist residencies and support programs and look for new ways to incorporate them into our new space.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Brittany: Don't wait to grab a ticket to our Grand Opening Party this weekend. This is a one time event and we have done nothing like it in our past seven years of business. We are ready to stop building earthquake walls and throw open the doors and have a nice, big old-fashioned party. One other thing I would like to plug is a new artist opportunity and job board we created with the support of South Salt Lake called We hope to spend some more time getting the word out about this site once the dust of construction has settled. The board is a wonderful free service and a great way to connect artists and find and post arts related jobs. Thank you Gavin and City Weekly for your support of our venue and for all you do in the community!

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