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A history of the artist community in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood.

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  1. 1. 1 A Case Study Presentation for Fast Company Boston Fast City June 29, 2010 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Lisa Greenfield, President, Fort Point Arts Community © 2010 Fort Point Arts Community
  2. 2. 2 Introduction: The Fort Point Arts Community, Inc. of South Boston (FPAC) is a non-profit community organization founded in 1980 and run by neighborhood artists and volunteers. Our mission is to enrich the Fort Point area with a resident live/work artist population that contributes to the district’s and the City of Boston’s cultural life.
  3. 3. 3 What we do: In 1980, shortly after artists began to arrive in 1976, Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) was established as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. FPAC has fulfilled this mission for more than 30 years through a variety of initiatives that have served its members, the City of Boston and the New England region. Our accomplishments include: •Organizing Fort Point Open Studios weekend, now in its 31st year, which draws thousands of visitors each October. Our Holiday Sale and Art Walk, held in December and May respectively, continue to attract growing audiences since being established in recent years. •Operating the FPAC Gallery at 300 Summer Street, a venue for all visual media, including site-specific installations, which presents eight exhibitions each year •Operating Made in Fort Point, FPAC's Store which sells the art, craft and design made by Fort Point Arts Community members, at 12 Farnsworth Street •Operating Art At 12, our newest 3000 square foot gallery space showing art in all media, at 12 Farnsworth Street •Programming year round temporary Public Art Series to engage the public and enliven the Fort Point neighborhood with art. •Maintaining a website with information about our events and members. •Providing and administering a yahoo e-group which serves as a means of communication among our artist members •Developing 249 A Street Artists Cooperative and The Artist Building at 300 Summer Street, two limited equity artists cooperatives that provide live/work space for 90 artist households. FPAC assisted in the development of The Brickbottom Artist Building in Somerville and played an instrumental role in founding Fort Point Cultural Coalition, which developed Midway Studios, Boston’s largest artist live/work building. •Establishing an art lending program, now in its 12th year, with WBUR, Boston's NPR radio station
  4. 4. Presentation: Fort Point Channel is a Boston neighborhood with a rich past -- and a neighborhood undergoing tremendous change -- this presentation discusses the dynamics of that change.
  5. 5. 5 The neighborhood is located near the South Station rail hub and you can see in the image on the left how rail was completely integrated in the neighborhood to move industrial goods. Today, the historic core is surrounded by a sea of parking lots - acres of underutilized land ripe for development due to the proximity to public transit, the highway systems, downtown the financial district, Logan airport, and sweeping harbor views. The historic warehouse buildings are the core of the neighborhood.
  6. 6. 6 From the 1880’s through the 1920’s The Boston Wharf Company built brick and timber buildings for warehousing of raw materials for industry. Initially sugar and molasses, followed by wool as the area became the wool capital of the country. Gillette, the US Postal Service and printing companies followed. During the 1940’s many businesses moved elsewhere and the buildings became vacant.
  7. 7. 7 During the 1970’s artists began to move into the neighborhood, attracted to the affordable, vast spaces. The artists formed the Fort Point Arts Community to represent artists’ interests and held the first Open Studios in 1980.
  8. 8. 8 Development pressure began in the early 1980’s with a large scale redevelopment proposal for Fan Pier. At the time, Mayor White declared Fort Point Boston’s “New Frontier.” Property values soared and small businesses were forced to leave the neighborhood. Most of the 300 artists with studios were threatened with displacement. At the same time the importance of the artistic presence in Fort Point and in Boston was stressed in the local papers. There were calls for the Boston Redevelopment Authority to “ensure the artists’ security” before approving development plans.
  9. 9. With the continuing threat to the community’s stability, the artists began to organize with the goal of purchasing a building for permanent space. Artists purchased 249 A Street in 1983 and converted the building into 35 studios in a limited equity coop.
  10. 10. 10 249 A Street Cooperative •October 1982 - 72,000 sf mill building became available. •Within 10 days, FPAC raised $35,000 seed money from prospective tenants. •Over a year of weekly meetings to raise $1.5 million for purchase and renovation. •Zoning variances needed and obtained •Conventional financing worth $1,050,000 obtained from the First Mutual Bank of Boston •$160,000 low-interest loan from the City of Boston •$100,000 third mortgage from the seller •Artists’ downpayment - $250,000 or $5 per net useable sf. •Architectural, legal and other “soft costs”- $5/sf. •Renovation costs - $5/sf (not incl. kitchen and bath) •Purchase price - $12/sf •Total cost - $20/sf •Operating and Debt service cost - under $5/sf •Completed in 1983 249 A Street was formed and the Artist Handbook, written by FPAC’s Jero Neeson, becomes a national model. FPAC also had a role in developing Brickbottom Studios in Somerville.
  11. 11. “Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, promising to establish a permanent art community in Fort Point, has said, “We want a development policy that takes artists into account.” -NYT, 1985 “Rossley also committed his office, which will come into existence formally with a City Council vote, to working with artist advocacy groups to generate 400 units of live/work space by the end of 1989, “with a goal of more than 1000 units by 1996.” -Boston Globe “The City of Boston has taken the lead on the artist space issue and started an innovative program several years ago to increase the supply of artist space. Following a survey done of artist needs Boston modified its zoning to allow artist housing in areas zoned industrial in the form of zoning overlays. Boston also allowed blanketed zoning changes for artist housing which enabled live/work developments to form in industrial areas, residential areas and commercial areas. … This has led to a coordinated effort that has benefited the artist community tremendously. They have created over 150 units, 131 of which are affordable. Boston also [has] certain guidelines when it partners with developers in creating artist live/work space. These design guidelines force a certain percentage of the proposed development to be filled by artist live/work space. If a development is strictly for artist use only, the city will sometimes give a certain amount of funding to ensure that the rental or ownership prices do not soar past a reasonable percentage of AMI.” —http://www.artistlink.org/?q=spacetoolbox/f ormunicipalities/examplecity initiativ es/examplesof city ef f orts/boston - 2010 For decades the City has been making promises to the artist’s community, with goals and ideals that have fallen short. According to Artslink, approx 150 units of artist space has been created in Boston, not even close to the 1000 space goal set by former Boston Arts Commissioner Bruce Rossley in his art agenda from 1980’s. Boston no longer has an Arts Commissioner
  12. 12. 12 To address the continuing pressures and shortage of legal, affordable live/work space, and to keep artists in the City, FPAC artists purchased 300 Summer Street in 1995 and converted it into 48 live/work studios and arts related commercial spaces in a limited equity coop. The building houses FPAC’s gallery and office, a frame shop, café and related businesses.
  13. 13. 300 Summer Street •The Artist Building at 300 Summer Street was created in 1995, as a limited equity Cooperative. •The mission was to create permanent affordable artist live-work space in Boston. FPAC was the nonprofit sponsor of its development. •The project's initial lenders were Boston Community Capital (formerly known as Boston Community Loan Fund (BCLF) and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) 300 Summer Street is a historic structure originally built for Boston's wool trade. With large windows, abundant light, and views of downtown Boston and the harbor, this building was perfectly suited for conversion to artist lofts. FPAC acquired 300 Summer Street in 1992. Keen Development was hired as development consultant and construction manager to convert the property into 48 live/work studios and 7 arts-related commercial condominiums. The building also houses a cafe, arts-related businesses and FPAC's gallery and office. The renovation scope was extensive but held to a budget of less than $75 per square foot (total development costs) to maintain affordability. FPAC chose a limited equity cooperative form of homeownership for the lofts, which accomplished several goals. It allowed the group to restrict ccupancy to visual artists and also ensured that purchase prices would remain affordable over time. Although financing such co-ops can be challenging, Keen secured construction and permanent loans to complete the development. The result is a thriving arts community within the Fort Point neighborhood.
  14. 14. 14 The BRA led a number of planning initiatives in the area, including The 100 Acre Plan. The Plan’s goal is to create a framework for transforming the area into a vibrant, 24-hour, mixed-use neighborhood with 1/3 of the development to be housing, including that for artists.
  15. 15. 15 With ongoing development pressure, artists used art and humor to fight displacement and draw attention to their struggle. For Beret Day, artists wore berets to draw attention to the issues.
  16. 16. 16 Major infrastructure projects, including the clean-up of Boston Harbor, the construction of the Silver Line, Harbor Walk, and Big Dig -- and the construction of the Convention Center --- further contributed to increases in property values and real estate speculation. Artist’s again react with creativity and humor, transforming signs promising parks and gardens to ones that were more realistic. Worth its wait? We are still waiting.
  17. 17. 17 In 2002 the Fort Point Development Corporation formed to redevelop 24-34 Midway Street into 89 permanent artist live/work studios and arts related commercial uses. This was part of Beacon Capital Partners’ Channel Center development and the building was sold to the FPDC for $1 as mitigation for the additional floor area ratio (FAR) granted to Beacon for their other properties on the site.
  18. 18. •Acquired in 2003 for $1 from Beacon Capital Partners •Completed in spring 2005 •Jointly developed by Keen Development Corporation and the Fort Point Cultural Coalition, Inc. •Approximately 200,000 square feet in three contiguous warehouse buildings. •The 89 live/work studios, 36 affordable units •The first floor houses a dramatic two story performance space and office/retail space for cultural organizations and arts-related businesses. Midway Studios Completed in spring 2005, Midway Studios is a project of the Fort Point Development Collaborative (FPDC). FPDC is a joint venture of Keen Development Corporation and the Fort Point Cultural Coalition, Inc. FPDC was established in April 2003 to foster the creation of the arts by developing permanent, affordable artist live/work space and cultural facilities in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood. Midway Studios is FPDC's first development. http://www.fortpointdc.com/project.html
  19. 19. At the height of the artist community, more than 600 artists lived and worked and ran small businesses in the neighborhood., contributing to the vibrancy and appeal of the district. The axe fell for the 600+ artists renting space when in 2000 the Boston Wharf Co started to sell the properties that previously they had expressed no interest in selling. They had sold all of their holdings by 2005. Despite efforts to negotiate new leases, the artists leases were not renewed by new property owners and the total number of artists in the neighborhood decreased significantly.
  20. 20. 20 In 2005, Archon/Goldman purchased a portfolio of 17 properties from Boston Wharf. They presented a vision to create a SOHO for the South Boston Waterfront. While they told the community and the City one thing, they presented a different face to their investors revealing that their true goal was to go through the rezoning process to obtain substantially more allowed floor area and then to flip the properties. Sale Boston: Artist’s respond with public art to the sale of their neighborhood to the highest bidder.
  21. 21. 21 A Wharf District Vision and Plan Archon Group/Goldman Properties Berkeley Investments (left) purchased a portfolio of properties in 2004. Their vision is to enliven the district with a mix of uses and with active ground floor uses. FP3 was developed as 96 units of housing, 3 of which are dedicated to artists, and first floor restaurant space. Archon/Goldman (right) presented an ambitious plan to create a lively district with sidewalks filled with pedestrians and shoppers, with hip housing for young professionals who could walk to work, and with restaurants and clubs. The buildings stand vacant today.
  22. 22. The vision presented vs. the reality today…
  23. 23. For Lease… 2010 - In building that were once thriving with artist work space, dark windows and vacant spaces now are the norm.
  24. 24. 24 A r t i s t L i s a G r e e n fi e l d A r t i s t L i s a G r e e n fi e l d A r t i s t s L i s a G r e e n fi e l d a n d J e n n i f e r M o s e s A r t i s t s L i s a G r e e n fi e l d a n d D a n i e l J . v a n A c k e r e Public art continues to be a creative means to draw attention to the needs of the artists and to press the city to forge cooperative relationships between artists and developers.
  25. 25. Artist occupied buildings in 1991
  26. 26. Artist occupied buildings in March 2008.
  27. 27. 27 Artist spaces remaining in June 2010 consists of the artist owned coop at 249 A Street, the artist owned coop at 300 Summer Street, the rental spaces at Midway Studios and a few remaining leases at 319 A Street Rear which is slated for demolition. 319 A Street is currently undergoing the approval process with the City of Boston to replace the building with 180 rental apartments. No artist space is included in the proposal.
  28. 28. June 2010 The red outlines show buildings that once had artists living and working in them, but are now sitting empty. Without artists as the stewards, the buildings are becoming derelict, with broken windows, and poorly maintained sidewalks. The streets are dark at night. Artists could still have been working in these spaces that have now been empty for several years, but the City did nothing - allowing the developers to empty the buildings without an immediate plan in place.
  29. 29. Where have FPAC artists gone? Lowell Western Mass Rhode IslandNew York South End East Boston Chelsea Hyde Park Jamaica Plain Cambridge Somerville Newton Malden Waltham Lowell Western MA New Bedford Pawtucket Providence New York New Bedford Where have the artists’s gone? Availability of space, creative zoning and incentives in places like Lowell, Malden and Pawtucket have drawn artists away from Boston. Young artists, just graduating from area colleges no longer have a place in the City to begin their careers.
  30. 30. Artist lease price info vs. current rental rates 1980s $.95 to $4.25 / sf 1990 $5.00 / sf 2008 $6.95 / sf 2010 $15 / sf non-AMI (Midway)
  31. 31. Loss of artists rental space 2009 77 artists evicted from 337 Summer and 319 A front & rear (14 relocated on a 1.5 year lease, ending in 2011) 2008 20+ artists evicted from 327 Summer Street 2006 100+ artists evicted from 49-63 Melcher Street, 24+ artists evicted from 316-322 Summer Street 2005 XXX Berkeley buildings 20+ artists evicted from 327 A Street 2002 50+ artists and the Revolving Museum evicted (300 A Street) Loss of creative businesses - Synergy between artists, industries and services that once existed disappeared. - Loss becomes exponential Approx 300 artists evicted since 2002 - (not counting the Berkeley buildings)
  32. 32. Marketers tout the vibrant artist community in the neighborhood, but increasingly these developments could lead to its demise. In the meantime, artists are making the best use of what they have, creating a non-profit store and gallery in a vacant storefront and continuing with open studios and other visibility projects.
  33. 33. Made in Fort Point: the FPAC Store FPAC’s initiatives such as the Made in Fort Point store, help artists gain visibility, sell their work and thrive as small businesses. The FPAC store space is a great example of developers and artists working together. Berkeley Investments donated the space, and FPAC activates the space, keeping the street lively with art openings and special events. The store is volunteer staffed by participating artists. It has made $115,000 year to date - 60-80%goes directly to the artists - the rest goes to operating costs.
  34. 34. One of the special events at the Made in Fort Point store and Art at 12 Gallery on Farnsworth Street.
  35. 35. The annual Spring Art Walk at the Made in Fort Point store and Art at 12 Gallery on Farnsworth Street.
  36. 36. Art openings help enliven the neighborhood after work hours. This one is at the FPAC Gallery at 300 Summer Street.
  37. 37. 37 Owner occupied buildings help stabilize the neighborhood. Spalding Tougias Architects purchased 241 A Street in 2008 from Commonwealth Ventures, successor to Beacon Capital, and brought a restaurant partner and small businesses with them to the building.
  38. 38. The Children’s Museum, Flour Café and FP3 Gallery join FPAC and other retailers in providing concentrated street level uses that bring increased pedestrian activity and vitality to the area.
  39. 39. 39 Today the neighborhood demographic is changing. The neighborhood has more residents, but less artists. Many young families call the neighborhood home and are putting roots down, living in “loft-style” condos, taking advantage of the new amenities.
  40. 40. Artists continue to push for projects like 249 A, 300 Summer and Midway Studios – large artist buildings owned or controlled by non- profits or co-ops – to be a central piece of the redevelopment of this extraordinary section of the city. The nature of the artist spaces has changed - most are much smaller, but they are legal and to code. However, luxury lofts are now outnumbering working artist studios.
  41. 41. B r i a n B r e s n a h a n We will continue to use creative ways to let people know that we are here and to use art to enliven our public spaces and enhance our neighborhood and the City.
  42. 42. What is needed to keep a creative community intact? - Affordability - Rental and ownership opportunities - Variety of spaces - live/work and work only - Range of size of spaces - room for families - Vibrancy - Places for the exchange of ideas (community/shared space) - Room for people starting out and just out of school - Range of ages for mentorship and interns - Stability and security Discussion
  43. 43. What are the barriers/ challenges? - Over-inflated real estate values - Loose governmental oversight of development - Convincing broader audience of the value of the creative economy - Out-of-town property owners and absentee landlords - Strained public funding for arts - Fort Point is the “last frontier” for downtown development (although it has been seen as this since the ‘80s….)
  44. 44. Looking ahead: - How do you develop relationships with developers who are not invested in the neighborhood or the City? - How do you get local government to recognize and protect their creative assets as an important segment of the economy? - How do you maintain community (volunteers, programs etc.) with a shrinking artists population? - Once it’s gone, can you bring it back? "No city can consider itself complete if it neglects its artists," said Mayor Menino. May 15, 2004 Press Released By: Neighborhood Development
  45. 45. 45 The Convention Center expansion along with all of the other development happening in and around the area begs the questions - Isn’t there room for artists? In a city like Boston, there absolutely should be. So why isn’t the City doing anything? Call your elected officials and ask why.
  46. 46. This is a work in progress. For more information contact the Fort Point Arts Community: 300 Summer Street M1 Boston MA 02210 E: info@fortpointarts.org T: 617 423-4299 FPAC office hours Th 1-6 PM. www.fortpointarts.org Special thanks to Jen Mecca, Karen Stein, and Cheryl Tougias. © Fort Point Arts Community Inc., of South Boston, 2010

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