Artist Studios, Gallery Space Planned for Historic West Bottoms Warehouse

Geoff and Cathy Smith plan to renovate the former Seed Warehouse building in the West Bottoms into artist studio and gallery space.

By Kevin Collison

A historic West Bottoms building at 1001 W. Eighth St. is slated to be renovated as a gallery and artist studio space by a pair of artists themselves, one with deep family ties to the area.

The $700,000 project is being pursued by Geoff and Cathy Beaham Smith. Her family operated the Faultless Starch/Bon Ami Company in the West Bottoms for 133 years before it was sold in 2020.

“I love the West Bottoms and can’t imagine it without artist studio space,” Ms. Smith said. “We’re both artists and this is our next chapter.”

She noted the Crossroads, a onetime hub of the downtown art scene, has become increasingly expensive for artists and with new redevelopment plans in the West Bottoms, it’s important to maintain space for them.

“Artists are often a catalyst and then get priced out of the market,” Ms. Smith said. “I live in the Crossroads and have worked in the West Bottoms a long time.

Cathy Beaham Smith (Photo courtesy Charlotte Street Foundation)

“It’s a win-win to keep artists in the area, both for the artists and the area to benefit.”

The couple want to renovate the two-story, former Seed Warehouse into studio space for themselves and others. The plan calls for the 11,520 square-foot building to be converted to a private gallery, wood shop, communal space and studio space.

They are seeking a 15-year property tax abatement from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, 10 years at 70 percent and five years at 30 percent. They also plan to pursue federal and state historic tax credits to renovate the building that opened in 1900.

“The vision for the Seed Warehouse LLC is to provide art space for producing paintings, woodworking and interactive art,” according to the PIEA application.

Geoff Smith is originally from Great Britain and he received a master’s in design from the Royal College of Art in London. His inter-disciplinary career included designing a digital musical instrument for the renowned performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Cathy Smith is a Kansas City native who received a master’s in journalism from the University of Kansas. Prior to working for her family business, she also worked in marketing here and in California.

“Cathy and Geoff are committed to helping provide quality art space in the West Bottoms,” according to the PIEA application.

“They believe the presence of art studios is an important element of the uniqueness of the area, adding to the quality of life for people who are attracted to work in, live in or explore the West Bottoms’ unique vitality.”

Ms. Smith said the Seed Warehouse project is expected to be completed next year.

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