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