Converting JLWQA Artist Lofts to Residential in SoHo

by | Last updated Jul 6, 2022 | Loft Design in NYC, NYC DOB, NYC Zoning, Uncategorized

SoHo and NoHo lofts are sometimes designated as Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA). If you are not an artist and would like to own one of these lofts, you can now convert certain JLWQA lofts to an unrestricted residential loft as a result of the SoHo / NoHo rezoning plan which has gone into effect.

A JLWQA loft in SoHo or NoHo can be converted from Joint Live Work Quarters for Artist to residential use through a buyout program paying fees to the SoHo-NoHo Arts Fund and submitting applications to the Department of City Planning and the NYC Department of Buildings.  

I am Jorge Fontan an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture. I have worked on many loft renovations over the years and several of those have been JLWQA. Previously, these spaces could not be converted to residential use, but due to the new SoHo – NoHo rezoning plan you can now convert and legally occupy these loft apartments without being an artist.

In this blog post I am going to review an outline of the process and some of the issues pertaining to JLWQA conversions.


What is a JLWQA Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists?

A “Joint Live Work quarters for Artists” or JLWQA is a loft apartment in specific zoning districts created to allow artists to live in buildings that were previously not zoned for residential use. These are more commonly known as Artist Lofts, but the official name is “Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists or JLWQA.

The JLWQA designation is listed on the Certificate of Occupancy for applicable loft buildings. Not all lofts are JLWQA, so it is important to know the exact classification with regards to the Multiple Dwelling Law.

If you want to read more I have another post where I go over more details on JLWQA Loft Apartments. Below you can see a sample Certificate of Occupancy from a building with JLWQA Loft Apartments.

JLWQA Loft Certificate of Occupancy

JLWQA Loft Certificate of Occupancy


Converting JLWQA Artist Lofts Process

The voluntary conversion of Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists to Residential Use must be filed and approved to designate a Loft as Residential Use. This will remove the artist live work “JLWQA” restriction, which would require at least one of the occupants to be a Certified Artist with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs “DCLA”.

To convert a JLWQA “Artist Loft” to residential use in SoHo or NoHo you must:

  • Hire an Architect
  • Informational Interest Meeting at DCP
  • Pay Fees to the SoHo NoHo Arts Fund
  • Receive City Planning Commission Chairperson Certification
  • File Notice of Certification
  • Obtain DOB Approvals and Sign offs


Hire An Architect 

You will need to hire an architect when converting your JLWQA loft to residential use. If you are also planning renovations, it will most likely be convenient to do both at the same time.


Informational Interest Meeting at DCP

The Informational Interest Meeting at the Department of City Planning is to discuss the application and requirements. This is a preliminary meeting to go over the proposal with DCP staff.


Pay SoHo / NoHo Arts Fund

In order to convert a JLWQA Loft to residential use you must pay a contribution to the SoHo / NoHo arts fund of $100 per square foot adjusted annually by the Chairperson on August 1st as per the Consumer Price Index.


File With DCP and Obtain Certification

You or your team will file your application with the Department of City Planning. Included will be proof of paying fees to the Arts Fund. The application will be reviewed by DCP as a “nondiscretionary action”. This means if you provide everything they ask for, they have to approve it. It will be an “As of Right” application.


Notice of Certification

Once you have obtained a Notice of Certification, this must be filed against the zoning lot.


Obtain DOB Approval and Signoffs

Once the buyout and City Planning application is complete, you can obtain any permits needed at DOB including a new or amended Certificate of Occupancy.


Converting Your Loft

There is a great deal of bureaucracy and costs when converting a JLWQA loft to residential use, but it will be well worth it when it is complete. If you hire a good team and know what you are getting into, you will save a great deal of trouble and anxiety. Please be aware that NYC agencies having jurisdiction such as DOB and DCP are in no rush for anyone, so these things may take time.

As an architect, I study Building and Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to JLWQA Loft Conversions. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Converting Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists to Residential.

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.