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Stephen Goldsmith used to pace the floors of his Artspace office, look up at the old California Tire and Rubber Co. building across the street and wonder what he could do with it.

"We had a huge waiting list for Artspace," he said. "And I would think, `I know we can do something with that building.' "He was right. With that vision - and a lot of community support - Goldsmith built Artspace Rubber Co. at 353 W. 200 South, a housing project for artists and low-income families.

And as people from the companies that helped finance the $5.8 million project wandered the white-walled halls of the bright and sunny building during Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, Goldsmith couldn't help but be moved.

"When I contacted the owner of this building and told him my idea, he thought I was a lunatic," said Goldsmith. "But he was here today, with tears in his eyes, saying, `I can't believe you did this with my building.' I had tears in my eyes, too."

The building, built in 1915, has housed cars, cigarettes, school supplies, rubber bands and tires. The old warehouse also sat empty for several years, collecting graffiti. Renovating the building took 14 months and more than $4 million dollars.

Architect Max Smith designed the building to use as much natural light as possible. Consequently, the apartments have interior as well as exterior windows. Concrete columns and white walls give the building a clean, urban feel.

With a $1 million grant from the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency, $3 million from Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association), support from Zions First National Bank, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and various city and state organizations, Artspace Rubber Co. has helped convert downtown Salt Lake City into what Mayor Deedee Corradini called a "funky, lively, urban neighborhood."

Thanking Goldsmith for his efforts, Corradini added that "the Rio Grande neighborhood has been a problem since I've been mayor. Now, we're turning this neighborhood into one of the most exciting neighborhoods in downtown Salt Lake."

City officials hope the original Artspace and the new Artspace Rubber Co., along with new apartments on Block 49 and renovations at Pioneer Park, will revitalize an area once brushed off as "run-down."

Nearly 85 percent of the building's tenants are painters, photographers, sculptors, writers or craftspeople. The 53-unit apartment building will also house retail stores and a coffee shop on the main floor as well as a day-care center scheduled to open this fall.

The building is 100 percent occupied, and Goldsmith said there is still a waiting list of about 200 people for the Artspace buildings.

The building's one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and art studio spaces rent for $250 to $600 a month. Eligible applicants must make less than 60 percent of the area median income.