Letter from Julie Burros

Received on 11/20/17

Dear Artists of 120 and 128 Brookside Ave,

Thank you for all of your advocacy efforts over the past months to raise awareness of the sale of 120 and 128 Brookside Ave. We understand that the loss of spaces for artists to work is a critical issue for artists and the vitality of our city.

On Monday, October 30th, we met with many departments at City Hall, including the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Mayor's Office, and the Office of Economic Development. Councilor Matt O'Malley also attended. Everyone was in agreement - we support your goal of keeping 128 Brookside an artist work space, and we want to be of assistance. For the artists of 120 Brookside, we will continue to investigate what other spaces might be available for you in Jamaica Plain and the surrounding area.

Please keep in touch with us as you decide your next steps and include us in any meetings where we can show support for your goals.

Sincerely,

Julie S. Burros

Chief of Arts and Culture

Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture

Michel's letter to the Gazette

JP artists

After what appears to have been another successful Open Studios weekend, we are reminded that it is the artist community that has been a key component in making JP the attractive community that it is.  But red flags should go up as we see one developer after another scarf up older properties, many of which serve as studios for artists, and turn them into giant, characterless apartment buildings.  Driven by profit, no attempt is made to blend into the community, to offer alternative studio/professional spaces, or, to accommodate the housing needs of lower income earners, many of whom make up Jamaica Plain’s diverse and talented workforce.  We seem to get a lot of lip-service from the City as to how it plans to be inclusive and mindful of the needs of the long term residents, many of them artists, but the expensive “housing” just keeps going up and the character of Jamaica Plain declines. With all the foreign investment money pouring into Boston, the transformation isn’t even subtle.  We’ve seen what’s happened to the Seaport that now has about as much character as Dubai.

We have also seen what happened to Harvard Square with iconic independent shops and restaurants being replaced by chain stores, something Jamaica Plain has successfully avoided because of its keen sensitivity to maintaining the community’s character. Would that JP’s neighborhood council exhibit the same zeal in protecting our artists from displacement so that areas like Washington Street and Barclay Square don’t soon become nothing more than expensive and sterile housing built not to enhance the community, but to fill the coffers of the investors.

At a recent gathering of artists and concerned citizens during Open Studios weekend, Mayoral candidate Tito Jackson made an appearance and reassured those with whom he met that their mission is a key part of his platform.  While no one is interested in impeding progress or change where it is necessary, the last thing we need is for Jamaica Plain to lose its hip and invigorating collection of artists and musicians, thus becoming just another ho-hum bedroom community for downtown Boston.

Michel L. Spitzer

Jamaica Plain resident

Julia's Open Letter

Hello, 

My name is Julia Luft and I am a recent grad from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This is the first year that I am not fortunate enough to have an artistic community supplied through academia. I am trying very hard to become an active member of the artist communities in Boston, but I am having a hard time for a number of reasons, mainly being that I, along with my fellow graduates, have no where to go. 

I have looked into the Boston Arts and Culture department and only saw "affordable live/work space" listings that were nothing near what I could afford and furthermore, they had outstanding waitlists that more established artists have seniority for. I am a young artist with a lot of time and energy to contribute to the emerging arts but have no aide in doing so. 

Mayor Walsh's "Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030" publication states that the city's goal is to accomplish, "strategic acquisition in order to lessen the impacts of gentrification....[and] creating opportunities for young, emerging artists to have live-work space, or creating innovative spaces where young entrepreneurs can cluster together and engage in their work." I have sought out such spaces mentioned and found them on Brookside ave in Jamaica Plain. Shortly after discovering these artist spaces, I found that 120 Brookside Ave was bought by developers to be made into luxury condos and is scheduled to be demolished in early 2018. 

I urge you to revisit Mayor Walsh's publication that explicitly states that Boston is trying to prevent the impacts of gentrification. Not even four months out of school and I am already seeing the horrific impacts of gentrification on lower income artist communities. I worry for the future of myself and my fellow young artists. 

It is to my knowledge that 128 Brookside is one of the last artist buildings of its kind and is in danger of a similar fate to its neighbor at 120.The arts are imperative to the culture and cultivation of the city. Please help us work together in saving these existing artist spaces in order to retain and maintain the creative economy and communities in Boston.

Thank you for your time.

Best,

Julia

Ken's Letter to the Gazette

Hi, 

In early 2014, Rebeca Oliveira wrote an article about my underground performance space in JP ( http://jamaicaplaingazette.com/2014/02/28/performance-space-welcomes-unusual-acts/ ). I would like to contact her about the possibility of writing a new story that's related to the space but was unable to find a direct email for her. Perhaps you could pass this on to her or another reporter that may be interested?

The space that she wrote about is in a building (128 Brookside Ave) that is currently zoned for light industrial and is 100% occupied by artists and creative professionals using it for work space. I have come to understand that this is one of the, if not THE, last affordable artists' studio buildings in Jamaica Plain. The building next door to us (120-124), also home to artists studios and small businesses, was recently sold and is slated for demolition in early 2018 to make way for luxury condos - without any affordable work or living space. I have also understood that the parking lots across the street from us have been sold and will be home to luxury condos before too long. It is no giant leap of imagination to see that 128 Brookside Ave will be (if not already) the target of developers soon. 

It is very very important, not just to myself or other occupants of the building, but also to the creative heart of JP itself that this last haven of affordable studio space not fall to the rising threat of gentrification. It is the art and music and performances that come out of places like 128 Brookside Ave. that contribute so much to the vibrancy, uniqueness and desirablility of living in JP in the first place. To push the artists out of JP would be akin to developing the Arboretum into condos. 

As long as our building stays zoned for light industrial, we believe we are safe - at least from development into luxury condos. But we have witnessed variances and zoning changes being handed out to developers, seemingly without discretion. We at 128 Brookside Ave., speaking in the ultimate interest of the entire community we believe, would love some help in telling our story and spreading the message of how important affordable artist space is in JP - for EVERYONE, including affluent newcomers who are (no doubt unintentionally) feeding the threat of development. We believe that wider awareness of the situation in the community will absolutely make a difference. 

I am not writing this letter to be published, but I would very much appreciate consideration of this topic by one of your reporters. I thought of Rebeca because she has had previous contact with at least some of what goes on at 128 Brookside Ave., and recognized the value in it.

Very Best Regards, 

Ken Michaels

Brendan's Letter to Gazette

Dear Editor,

          I am an artist living and working in Jamaica Plain. I am fortunate enough to have one of the few studio spaces available in JP at 128 Brookside Ave in the midst of what was, (formerly), a thriving Arts community in the Brookside/Amory street area of Jamaica Plain. As I’m sure you are aware, this area is currently undergoing a great deal of speculation and development. As a result, my fellow studio-mates, neighbors and myself are growing increasingly concerned as to our future prospects here. To compound my concerns I recently attended several Boston Zoning Board meetings at which 2 projects in our neighborhood, including one at the site of the building next to ours, (120 Brookside Ave), breezed through the approval process. 30 Artists, Musicians and small business' are being displaced as a result. Despite all the hard work that my neighbors and myself have devoted to maintaining the long term affordability and quality of life in the area, It was clear that the city’s overtures regarding our concerns have been summarily dismissed. 

This is a direct result of the inflated market fueled by the City of Boston's plan to turn the J.P. Washington street corridor into one- big-luxury-condo and, in the process, drain our community of the character that makes it such a unique place to live. Similar to what has transpired in Fort Point and the Fenway, this kind of aggressive development will bring profound and irrevocable change in the diversity of our neighborhood.

In response, we are currently in the process of organizing ourselves and our many allies into an advocacy group for maintaining our presence in the community. In addition to preventing any further displacement, our ultimate goal is to try and create a ”safe” zone or place where the Art community is no longer at the mercy of a malevolent market.

I will continue to keep the Gazette well informed as it's an issue of great concern for us and the JP creative community at large. 

Thank you for your consideration,

Brendan Killian on behalf of the Artists at 128 Brookside

Jeff's Letter to Everyone

Hello, 

My name is Jeff Ledellaytner. I am a filmmaker, artist, and small business owner currently working out of an artist’s studio at 128 Brookside Ave in Jamaica Plain. I’m writing you today to ask you to consider helping save art studios like ours from being developed into residential spaces. Recently our neighbors at 114-120 Brookside ave lost a vital battle to maintain their space as a light industrial zone. As a result, the artists and small business owners will be displaced against their will, to make way for a new luxury condo building. 

I have lived in Jamaica Plain at 91 Brookside ave for 13 years. In 2015, after looking for a place to buy unsuccessfully for years, I chose to move to the more affordable Roslindale. I did not want to leave JP. I was not able to afford the town I love. I fear that I will have to move my business if we don’t find zoning protection soon. 

In January 2017, I’ve started renting a 500 square foot space at 128 Brookside ave in Jamaica Plain. I’ve had expensive shared studios in Back Bay and the South End, and had to retreat to my home for a number of years to continue to operate my business more affordably. When I found the studio at 128 Brookside it was a dream come true. I run a video production company that services the many advertising agencies in Boston, as well as a large number of companies and Non-Profits in the surrounding metro area. I’ve been in video production in Boston since 2001. All of my clients are here. All of my work is here. 128 Brookside is the ideal location for me and I fear that given the current climate of the neighborhood developments in this particular area, our building will not be spared in favor of a shiny new residential complex. 

128 Brookside Ave used to be a WWI airplane manufacturer!

In addition to my commercial work, I also have put on many events at the larger front space at 128 Brookside in the name of art. I’ve hosted comedy events, bands, and film screenings, all free of charge to the community. 

Please help protect our building, and others like it from becoming another luxury condos. Many of my peers have already written you. I am in complete solidarity with them. We feel that art is VITAL to a community, especially a place like JP. I think a HUGE reason JP has become so desirable is because of the artists. 

Thank you for your time!

Jeff Ledellaytner

Ken's Letter to the DND

Hi John, 

Thanks so much for a prompt & thoughtful (not to mention encouraging) response!

I have to confess no small amount of ignorance regarding the workings and functions of the various groups and people you've mentioned. Unlike Brendan, I'm new to this process and have a lot to learn! I'll have Brendan bring me up to speed as much as he can.  But thank you for reaching out to the various parties on our behalf. Let me know what information and/or action on my part will best help you help us. Thanks!

Ken


Hello Ken (I've included Brendan in this email, as well as Helen Matthews since Brendan indicated in his email that she has met with tenants), thanks to you and Brendan for your emails and background on 128 Brookside.   DND is very interested in pursuing a targeted acquisition strategy in JP/Rox to preserve/enhance affordability and unique uses, such as artist work/live space.  We have involved City LIfe (Steve Meacham, Helen Matthews and Alex Ponte-Capellan), Urban Edge (Emily Loomis) and JP Neighborhood Development Corp (Leslie Bos).  All are committed to working together to identify buildings to target for acquisition; on this level, we have met on a number of occasions and reviewed a number of JP/Rox. buildings .  Helen, Steve and Alex have provided us with invaluable information regarding tenant, building and ownership histories for many buildings, and while UE and JPNDC has done the same, they have also done preliminary financing analysis on a number of buildings to assess acquisition feasibility.  DND is supportive of using city funds to promote building acquisition.  

In this context, your information on 128 Brookside is very important.  We will reach out to Helen/Steve/Alex and UE and JPNDC.  I would like our team to assemble as much information as possible- building condition, number of units, income mix- so that we can quickly assess an approach for stabilizing tenancies, with one possibility being acquisition.  I will share my contact with you with UE and JPNDC.  We plan to meet again next week and can discuss the property.  We can get back to shortly.

Please call or email me on this.  


Dear Sirs, 

Brendan Killian shared an email he sent to you regarding his concerns about the impending development of the Brookside Ave. area of Jamaica Plain. I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of concern.

I rent space at 128 Brookside Ave. as well and use it in two capacities. Firstly, it functions as my workplace from which I run my video post-production business serving mostly corporate and commercial clients, providing editorial, visual effects and motion graphics services. My business suffers from the usual cycles and at times struggles financially, while doing very well at other times. The affordability of the space, as well as its location has been essential in keeping me in business these past 6 years. 

Even more importantly though is the secondary use of my space, which I am absolutely passionate about. I am fortunate enough to have the largest space in the building (approx 1200 sq. ft.) and I have put it to extensive use in service to the community. We have hosted concerts of ALL kinds of music from chamber groups to 20 piece big band ensembles, experimental music, reggae, soul, klezmer, folk, rock and such a wide variety of music from around the world, some representative of our community's ethnicities and some more foreign and novel. We have put on plays, film screenings, readings, have used the space as an art gallery, recording studio, photo studio. We have hosted a number of community organizational events and meetings. And now, with the BSO having announced its 3 year residency in Jamaica Plain, we are involved with the planning and development of their residency and will be one of many spaces in JP that will host concerts (not the full orchestra of course) by the BSO. At our last meeting (at my space), their representatives were so excited that such spaces still existed and that this was "exactly the kind of place we were hoping to find".  Assuming, of course, that the space continues to exist. 

Aside from private parties, which we do rent the space out for occasionally, all these events I've described have been FREE to the public. I have personally spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years to bring these performances and events to the community free of charge. My hope has always been that I am allowing people to experience art and music that they might not be able to afford to experience otherwise. All of this will vanish if 128 Brookside Ave. is developed in a way that is no longer condusive to this sort of activity or financially prohibitive for me to continue to be there. I invite you to come to my space either for a private meeting or to attend and event and see for yourself some of the magic that happens there!

I ***strongly*** believe that one of the things in Jamaica Plain that makes it worth some people spending $700k (or more) on a two bedroom condo is exactly because such places as 128 Brookside Ave. exist in their community. Artists are kind of like trees. They're easily taken for granted, seemingly everywhere and often regarded as dispensible to the goals of development. But if you paved over the Arboretum for condos, you'd quickly find that the neighborhood was a lot less desirable, and property values would plummet. I am not, as some of my colleagues, against all development. I am not against people making money. I am not fundamentally opposed to change. But I warn you - for your own interests - against ignoring the value of art and music, artists and musicians, thriving in a community. We are so blessed to have the Arboretum and I believe we are just as blessed to have such a creative population within our community. It adds so much value - actual value. Do not pave us over! It is not just for our own benefit but for yours as well that we continue to thrive and to do it here. We are part of what makes this community such a desirable place to live.

Best Regards, 

Ken Michaels

Brendan's Letter to BRA

Dear Ms. Mercurio,

I am an artist living and working in Jamaica Plain. I am fortunate enough to have one of the few studio spaces available at 128 Brookside Ave in the midst of what was, (formerly), a thriving Arts community in the Brookside/Amory street area of Jamaica Plain. As I’m sure you are aware, this area is currently undergoing a great deal of speculation and development. As a result, my fellow studio-mates, neighbors and myself are growing increasingly concerned at our future prospects here. To compound my concerns I recently attended several Boston Zoning Board meetings at which 2 projects in our neighborhood, including one at the site of the building next to ours, (120 Brookside Ave), where approved.

30 Artists and Musicians are being displaced as a result.

To the best of my knowledge, 128 Brookside is the last remaining artist work space on Brookside Ave. Based on conversations with the owner, our studio building is not currently under immediate threat of sale. This could change at any time however, given the accelerated growth of the market around us.

 I have lived in Jamaica Plain since the 80's and, like many, have watched it evolve in mostly positive ways from which my business has benefited, but it has frankly reached a point where it is rapidly becoming untenable for individual's like myself who's livelihood depends on affordable accessible work space & housing. As a point of fact this community is an integral part of the work I do and my business would not be able to survive re-location. Over the 3+ decades that I’ve lived here I’ve built up a network of patrons and customers that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate in a different location. My sales come almost exclusively through the local independent business’ where my work is displayed and I have devoted a great deal of energy and resources to maintain and build on those relationships. In turn, independent Artist’s and Craftsman like myself offer the community a vibrancy, diversity and creative energy that add to the overall quality of life in any urban area like Jamaica Plain. 

Two articles that appeared in the August 26th issue of the Jamaica Plain Gazette directly address this matter. The first, titled “BRA releases draft of Plan: JP/Rox” describes the city’s development plans for the area in question. Though informative, it’s ultimately a cause for increased alarm for my neighbors and myself. The second article, “Harnessing the creativity of Boston’s artists to build a better city,” describes the Mayor’s plan, (“Boston Creates”), to insure the well being of the city’s Arts community. As much as I appreciate the effort, and am interested in exploring the possibilities these programs offer, the issue of displacement and the threat it poses to my fellow artist’s livelihoods and myself is of critical concern.

Among other local community groups, I am a member of The Green Street Renters Association. During a recent conversation with fellow member Helen Mathews she mentioned that she had met with you and suggested I do the same regarding our options to create a stable work environment for our creative community through your Acquisitions and Conversions Program.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Brendan F. Killian   

 

Clive's Letter to DND

Hello Clive, thanks for your email.  As Brendan probably told you, DND is working with JP/Rox tenant advocates (City Life) and 2 area Community Development Corporations (Urban Edge and JP Neighborhood Development Corporation) to assess acquisition opportunities in Jamaica Plain/Roxbury to preserve & protect affordability and unique live/work arrangements.  We will be meeting shortly and will discuss your email and situation and we can get back to you. Thanks

John Feuerbach

Senior Development Officer for Housing

26 Court Street

Boston, MA  02108

john.feuerbach@boston.gov

(w) 617-635-0353

(f) 617-635-0383


 

Dear Devin and John,

My name is Clive Moloney.  I am an artist living and working in Jamaica Plain. I share a studio with 9 other artists at 120 Brookside Ave. I have been been in conversation with Brendan Killian, Ken Michaels and the other artists next door to me at 128 Brookside and have been cc'd on their emails with you both.

I don't know if you are aware of the situation at 120 Brookside. Myself and some of the other current tenant artists have been renting the 2500 sq ft warehouse space for the past 5 years. Our building was sold to developer Scott Johnson last year.  Mr. Johnson wants us out of the building by January 2018 (4 months time). He has given us plenty of notice but has offered only 2 work spaces in his new development, which will also contain 9 apartments. I have been attending Brookside Neighborhood Association meetings with some of the other artists of 120 Brookside, our neighbors and Mr Johnson.  From my attendance at these meetings I realized that this was the best deal we were going to get but the fact remains that 10 artists will be out of a work space come January and only 2 will get new spaces when the new building is complete. There are also 3 small businesses in another part of the same building and they are all competing for the 2 proposed work spaces. 

I would like to echo Ken Michaels views in expressing the importance of the art community in JP and the fact that artists are being priced out of our neighborhood. I understand Boston is in a ridiculous housing bubble but the artists at 120 Brookside need your help in finding new work spaces.  

I appreciate the concern you have expressed in your emails and hope you will do your up most to support the artists of 120 and 128 Brookside.

We would be happy to meet you any time to continue this conversation.

Regards,

Clive

Sheila's Letter to Marie and Lara

To: marie.mercurio@boston.gov, Lara.Merida@boston.gov

Upcoming ZBA hearing on 114-120 Brookside Avenue, JP, Tuesday July 25th

Dear Ms. Mercurio and Ms. Merida-

I am an artist with a studio in the abutting property to 114 Brookside. I am also a 25 year resident of Jamaica Plain. The co-tenants in my building and I strongly oppose the proposed residential conversion next door, which is slated to be presented to the ZBA next Tuesday.

The proposal is inconsistent with current zoning, inconsistent with the JP Rox Plan, and has already started to displace artists occupying the building as the developer speculates on a positive response from the ZBA. The project has not had the benefit or scrutiny of Article 80 review, and offers no meaningful replacement of the existing work spaces.

The BPDA undertook the JP Rox plan to bring greater certainty to development patterns in our neighborhood through an extensive and inclusive planning process. We respect the intent and outcome of that plan. Now that the plan has been approved by your board, we expect you will honor the spirit and letter of that plan by opposing this development. 

I am attaching my letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Respectfully,

Sheila Gallagher

Studio : 128 Brookside Avenue, Jamaica Plain