Equinox Studios was founded in 2006 by Sam Farrazaino, a sculptor with significant construction experience. In the last ten years, Farrazaino has expanded Equinox to nearly 100,000 square feet of artist workspace occupied by 125 artists and artisans including glass blowers, blacksmiths, woodworkers, two painting schools, photographers, leather workers, musicians, filmmakers, and two dance companies.
Equinox is 100% artist-owned. Farrazaino seeks to build a replicable for-profit model for affordable artist workspace where the value of building improvements and growing neighborhood popularity accrue to the artists. Farrazaino created a subsidiary tenant organization that has a one-third ownership stake. Every tenant earns shares of the subsidiary by paying their rent. Tenants vote collectively on how to utilize the tenant organization’s proceeds (e.g. reinvest in Equinox, payout a dividend). As Farrazaino explains, “The mission here is to create long-term affordable, long-term sustainable workspace that will always be workspace for artists. It won’t ever be anything else.”
Equinox has been financed almost exclusively by owner’s equity and impact debt. Farrazaino’s agreement for an initial 30,000 square feet building was a lease option, with the opportunity to purchase the building for $1.9 million after five years. In that time, Farrazaino made significant lease-hold improvements and the property appraised at $2.8 million. The owner agreed to finance the sale of the building to Equinox and consider the $900,000 increase in appraised value to be the down payment.
In 2013, Farrazaino purchased two additional properties by refinancing the original building plus $8.5 million in loans from RSF Social Finance and Craft3. Equinox grew to nearly 100,000 square feet. As of 2016, Equinox’s annual revenue was approximately $1 million and its facilities had a net operating income of $775,000.
The waitlist for artist workspace at the time of writing was the equivalent of 60-70,000 square feet of space, and further expansion is planned. Equinox’s estimated costs of acquisition and construction over the next five years are $10 million, $7 million of which to be financed through impact debt.