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We design and structure projects to help our partners gain the experience needed to find agency in whatever path they choose, be it ownership or a long-term lease.

CounterPulse groundbreaking, 2015. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Rainin Foundation

There are many ways to secure space. Traditional approaches include leasing or buying properties. Other ways include partnering with agencies who serve the same audiences, or communities, such as schools, faith communities, and recreation centers.

There also may be occasional opportunities to work with developers to activate or program ground floor space, ideally on a long-term basis, or to create and operate community-based arts and cultural facilities within larger developments.

Thinking Long-Term

We work with our arts partners to understand and evaluate possible solutions to secure properties for long-term community control. We design and structure projects to provide our partners with flexibility and options for the future, including the potential for ownership.

Most often, our real estate projects grow out of the relationships that have been developed and cultivated by our community engagement work, and the project support and services we provide our partners are typically holistic and deep.

Ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the purchase of Oakstop’s first building acquisition in partnership with CAST, May 2023.

We define success as the realization of the community’s desires and outcomes, and CAST’s role and scope is determined based on what’s best for the project. In some cases, this means introducing and connecting our partners to information and/or support from our network of community development organizations that work with artists, arts and cultural organizations.


Every Real Estate Project is Different

Below is one example of how you might prepare for and engage with CAST to realize the goal of an affordable long-term facility that supports and makes possible your mission, vision, and program.

Hover your mouse over each step to see a “translated” summary of your role, CAST’s role, and how we work together at each stage.


Pathway to Stability



Real Estate Readiness

What do I need to have in place to be ready to look for space?

Before we can get started, you need to have a solid grasp on your:

    1. Organizational Mission/Vision & Business Plan
    2. Staff & Board Capacity
    3. Financial Readiness
    4. Amount of square feet you need
    5. Ideal location
      >>Learn more with Community Vision

Facility planning & feasibility

How do I know if this space makes sense for my needs and my budget?

We can help you with a preliminary exploration to determine if your project is possible, like supporting you with:

  1. Assembling a team
  2. Developing a budget and schedule
  3. Securing financing/funding

Acquisition / Site Control

I’ve found a space that works, how do I lock it down?

We advise you through seller negotiations and the due diligence process to manage risk and get the most affordable deal.

Design & Permitting

The space might be perfect as is, but probably not. How do I customize the space for my intended use and do so legally?

We connect you to our network of design and construction professionals and internal resources to design a space that will meet your needs and priorities for programming and comply with all applicable building and zoning codes.

Build Out

How do I bring my design to life?

We manage the construction team, facilitate effective communication and decision-making, and stay closely engaged throughout the build out to keep the project on schedule and on budget. 

In Operation

You are open for business!

Programs are up and running and the space is fully in use.


Artists and cultural workers are anchored where they create.

Stability doesn’t always mean owning a building; it can also mean having a long-term affordable lease in a CAST-owned and operated building. Achieving stability allows you the space to dream!

Discover what it takes to be “real estate ready”

The pathway to stability begins and ends with our partners taking the lead. In the middle of the process, CAST exists to work with you to figure out how to best wrap a building around your program.

To come to the table ready to engage with CAST, we recommend working closely with partners like Community Vision who offer financial management and real estate guidance to nonprofits and social enterprises to determine those essential needs, especially if you’re a newer organization that’s still figuring out its capacity.


The Core Work

CounterPulse design meeting. Photo by Kegan Marling

Facility planning, feasibility, & financing/funding

If you’re considering a space for your project but are unsure if it will work for your needs, we can help you with preliminary exploration, including:

  • Assembling a project team

  • Developing a budget and schedule

  • Exploring financing/funding options

Community and economic development sectors have developed a number of financing tools for bridging the gap between what community organizations can afford and what it costs to secure space.  We use philanthropic support and financing tools like New Markets Tax Credits, bonds, and program-related investments to bring costs down.

When the tools don’t exist, we build them, in partnership with artists, policymakers, and developers.

Acquisition / Site Control

CAST is not a licensed real estate broker, but we are deeply involved in the network of professionals who seek to activate the unique spaces that work well for arts and cultural uses.

Already have a broker and found a space that could work? We can advise you through seller negotiations and the due diligence process to manage risk so you get the most affordable deal.

Noonan Building artists attend a planning workshop facilitated by CAST and Jensen Architects.

Design, Permitting, & Build Out

Dreaming Spaces demonstrates CAST’s commitment to inclusive, welcoming, and accessible community engagement to dream and create spaces for artists and arts organizations. Our real estate team works with our community engagement team to create a process for artists and community stakeholders to provide meaningful input that inform project plans, programs, designs, and ongoing operations and governance.

We connect you with design and construction professionals appropriate for your project to customize the space for your intended use and comply with state and local regulations and requirements. We can also manage the design and construction teams, schedule, and budget.

Development Services

Project Management

From understanding community commitments and assisting with picking the right site, we usher the project and team through concept, design, and construction with an eye on maintaining budget and schedule. Phases we support include: getting entitlements, building out the project team, and managing pre-development, pre-construction, funding, budgeting, and financial analysis.

Construction Management

Working from organization/community-approved design, we provide guidance or management through the phases of build out including (but not limited to) estimating, bidding, project launch, regular progress meetings, site visits, budget control, schedule control, risk mitigation, close out, and hand over.

Design Consultation

We work with you to formulate a deep understanding of goals and community commitments. Through site visits, space planning, test fits, estimating, and consultant management, we advocate for you/your organization’s design needs and your community commitments throughout the design process.

Our Partnerships

Learn about our projects that have secured long-term affordable spaces across the Bay Area.

    • Oakland
    • Downtown Oakland


    Oakstop uses commercial real estate as a platform for economic development and community empowerment.

    Read more about Oakstop
    Oakstop building exterior
    • San Francisco
    • The Tenderloin


    CounterPulse, a staple in San Francisco’s art scene for over 30 years, has long been a catalyst for experimental and…

    Read more about CounterPulse
    CounterPulse building exterior
See More Partnerships

Looking for Space

Are you “real estate ready”, but unsure about taking the leap into ownership? Explore what short-term and long-term options exist with CAST as your ally.