A York City housing initiative dubbed by one official as "the artist-homestead program on steroids" will get started next month with a visit from some Minnesota folks who know how to flip a warehouse.

Representatives of a Minneapolis-based nonprofit will be in town Feb. 13 and 14 to evaluate the potential of some of York's biggest and emptiest buildings to re-emerge as homes for creative people to live and work.

Like the city's former artist-homestead program - which had been designed to draw artists to the area with forgivable home loans and marketing help - an ArtSpace project would add cultural diversity to York, said Kevin Schreiber, the city's economic and community development director.

"This would really, really significantly up the ante on that," Schreiber said. "Artists tend to take ownership of the city."

During their visit, ArtSpace representatives will tour the city and meet with stakeholders. Then, for a cost of $12,000, ArtSpace will produce a market study about York's artist-housing possibilities.

"Worst-case scenario, we're left with a market study on our artist community," Schreiber said. "Best-case scenario, this market study will show that there is, in fact, a market."

ArtSpace, Schreiber said, has a "formula that seems to work."

For the past three decades, ArtSpace has developed artist housing all over the country. According to its website, the nonprofit fulfills different roles depending on the project - from consultant to property developer and manager.

Schreiber said he recently toured a finished ArtSpace project, a Baltimore warehouse that had been converted into apartments.

"Our goal with this is to bring ArtSpace to our community to do a development project," he said.

During their visit, the nonprofit's representatives will tour at least six properties ranging in size from 18,000 to 120,000 square feet.

Schreiber said a few examples of city-owned properties that could be developed into artist housing are: the Keystone Colorworks building, a former paint factory that's part of the Northwest Triangle redevelopment project; the former Bond Sanitary Products Inc. property at 134 E. King St.; the Pullman Apartments on North George Street; and the former F.W. Woolworth building at 44-50 W. Market St.

The public is invited to share ideas with ArtSpace at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at City Hall, 101 S. George St.

City officials will decide on further action after receiving the market study, Schreiber said.

"We'll know more after that," he said.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.