Open Studios in 2 weekends
- Hi there! -
Bebe and I would love to see you at our Fort Point Open Studios event Fri, Sat and Sun Oct 17-19 weekend! Check out - fortpointarts.org - for DIRECTIONS and STUFF. Thanks! (Remember to register to vote if you haven't already by the 15th.) -Dan
Hon. Thomas Menino
Mayor of Boston
Boston City Hall
One City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201
Friday, August 29, 2008
Paint brush: Artists stand to lose Fort Point space
Boston Business Journal - by Michelle Hillman Boston Business JournalSeventy Boston artists and 20 small businesses are in danger of losing commercial studio space in the most recent clear-out of tenants by Goldman Properties and the Archon Group LP.
The artists’ leases at 319 A St. and 337 Summer St. in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood will expire in November. Despite letters from residents and pleas from community groups, the artists will be the latest wave of tenants forced to flee the arts enclave unless a deal is worked out to extend the leases.
Goldman Properties did not respond to calls for comment. Archon the real estate arm of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also did not respond to inquiries.
About 90 artists have moved out of the neighborhood since Archon/Goldman purchased a 17-building warehouse portfolio from Boston Wharf Co. three years ago. A year later, Goldman/Archon relocated tenants out of 316-322 Summer St. because they planned to redevelop the buildings into residential space. Those buildings were subsequently sold and remain vacant today.
Last November, Goldman/Archon vacated artists at 49-63 Melcher St., where approximately 100 artists leased studio space. The Melcher Street building is vacant today, said Paul Bernstein, president of the Fort Point Arts Community.
“To say that the community has been decimated by a single developer is not an embellishment,” he said.
Bernstein’s group has represented artists in lease negotiations with Goldman/Archon in the past but is not currently in conversation with the landlord. Bernstein said last year the Goldman/Archon partnership ceased negotiations with tenants at Melcher Street. He would not elaborate when asked why the talks broke down.
“We’re trying to preserve our community,” he said. “We have to be diplomatic and tactful.”
When Goldman/Archon purchased the buildings in 2005, the plan was to turn the neighborhood into a mix of residential, retail, cultural and restaurant space. Instead, residents and artists claim that Goldman/Archon has sold and emptied buildings while doing little to make good on that plan.
Goldman/Archon developers asked the Boston Redevelopment Authority to allow the partnership to abandon its mixed-use plan in favor of office space, but the BRA declined. Goldman/Archon has permits in hand that allow it to convert the industrial buildings into residential space, but could face BRA scrutiny or public pressure down the road if it does not pursue those plans.
The BRA has “serious interests in helping expand the number of artist that live there” said the agency’s director, John Palmieri. However, the BRA “can’t impose any requirement. ... And, of course, we’re concerned that the buildings not be mothballed. It’s not that we can force them to do residential development. There isn’t anything we can do to force them to advance the plan that was approved by the BRA.”
In July, another neighborhood group, Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design, wrote a letter to Mayor Thomas Menino asking him for his “urgent assistance in halting the displacement of Fort Point’s creative community which cannot thrive under the current conditions.”
Some artists interviewed for this story said the BRA and the city are not facilitating a conversation with Goldman/Archon as they’ve done in the past.
In 1991, the Fort Point Channel was home to 600 artists, said Bernstein. Today the number of artists working and leasing space in the area stands at about 300, he said. While the neighborhood has steadily lost artists over the last several decades, Bernstein said the amount of leased commercial space available to artists has markedly declined since 2005 when the Boston Wharf Co. sold its portfolio.
Frederick Lee, who has a commercial photography studio at Goldman/Archon’ s building at 319 A St., is concerned about the future of the neighborhood. Lee was relocated out of another Goldman/Archon building last year and now must move his studio again.
“Basically, it’s the end, it’s going to be our last open studios there,” said Lee. “It’s a tragedy because some of us just got there a year ago. They have not stuck to (their plan) ... that was a big joke.
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