The following comment letter was sent by the Fort Point Cultural Coalition (FPCC) in response to Beacon Capital Partner's proposed Midway project.

March 1, 2001

Ms. Susan Hannon, Deputy Director for Project Management
One City Hall Plaza, Ninth Floor
Boston, MA 02201-1007

Re: Beacon Capital Partners' Midway Fort Point District PNF

Dear Ms. Hannon,

On behalf of the Fort Point Cultural Coalition (FPCC) I am writing to respond to the Midway Fort Point District Project Notification Form submitted for review on January 24 by Beacon Capital Partners. Beacon's gesture of setting aside 125,000 square feet for artist live/work space in this PNF falls far short of fulfilling the goals of our coalition for this neighborhood. As Deputy Director of Boston's planning and development agency we are asking for your support for our efforts to preserve the existing artist community in the Fort Point neighborhood by insisting that Beacon increase the artist live/work square footage to a minimum of 250,000 square feet.

The FPCC was established in July 1999 and is made up of the Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) which represents hundreds of individual artists, Mobius, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), The Revolving Museum, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA), and neighborhood volunteers. (Attached is additional information on the organizations in our membership.) Our coalition's mission is to preserve, promote and expand the cultural community in Fort Point.

As you know, Fort Point is home to the largest and most established arts community in New England, with a history going back approximately twenty-five years. We believe that local artist communities in general are valuable assets to the City, and that the Fort Point community in particular, which includes these unique non-profit cultural institutions, is irreplaceable and should be preserved.

As you may know, after site visits to the Midway buildings in March 2000 the FPCC and Keen Development Corporation (development consultants for The Artist Building at 300 Summer Street) approached Boston Wharf Company to ask for an option on the purchase of fifteen buildings on Midway and A Streets. Our plan was to create a diverse mixed-use development of permanent live/work space for hundreds of artists, consisting of both artist-owned and affordable rental space; office space for cultural non-profit organizations; and conference, exhibition and black box performance space, as well as galleries and other retail activity.

However, after several weeks of negotiations, Boston Wharf instead sold these buildings to Beacon, which planned to develop the site primarily for office use.

Despite Mayor Menino's order that a third of new developments be made up of on-site residential housing, Beacon has offered only 125,000 square feet, out of a proposed 1.7 million square foot project, for artist live/work space. Of the remaining square footage a small portion is proposed for retail activity and the vast majority is dedicated to office space. Beacon's representatives believe that 125,000 square feet more than compensates for the eventual displacement of the artists currently renting space from them. However their development has the potential to bring gentrification and increased property values to this entire neighborhood, and we believe they bear a responsibility toward the entire Fort Point arts community.

We believe that what we envision for Fort Point would not only enhance Beacon's development-as well as the proposed redevelopment of the South Boston waterfront, from Fan Pier to the Convention Center-but would also benefit the City, the Gillette Company, and the general public.

The City would have a vibrant arts district. We believe that part of what makes a city great is its commitment to culture and the arts. Fort Point is a cultural draw for Boston, attracting thousands of visitors to its exhibitions, performances, and other cultural events, including the Fort Point Arts Community's Annual Open Studios. The Revolving Museum's collaborations with inner city youth bring a racial and social economic diversity to the neighborhood. Mobius also works with inner city teens through the Art a la Carte/Teens Show program and has done several teen art education partnerships over the years. The planned relocation of the Institute of Contemporary Art to the new South Boston Waterfront will reinforce this area's identity as a cultural destination for the city.

Also, we have met with representatives from the Gillette Company, our long-time neighbors in the Fort Point Industrial Subdistrict, and while we understand they oppose market rate residential housing, they have maintained that they support artist live/work space on Midway Street. Therefore artist live/work space could satisfy the mayor's housing order with a solution acceptable to Gillette.

In addition, increased artist live/work space in this development would ease the traffic burden in the neighborhood. The number of parking spaces required for the two existing artist-owned buildings in Fort Point, 249 A Street and 300 Summer Street, is significantly lower than the one space per thousand square feet needed for office developments. Because artists both live and work in their spaces, their need for travel and parking is minimal, and therefore the impact on traffic is lower.

Finally, we believe artist live/work space is in accordance with the Seaport Public Realm Plan which calls for a 24-hour mixed-use neighborhood in Fort Point. Beacon's current proposal to add at least a million square feet of office space, with a minimal amount of housing, does not meet that goal.

In conclusion, the BRA can ensure that, in addition to significantly increasing artist live/work space in the Midway project, provisions are put in place to meet the real estate needs of the entire community, in conjunction with the Office of Cultural Affair's recent initiatives to address the artist housing issue on a citywide scale. Your action on this matter will have a lasting impact on Fort Point and be the signal for planning and cultural policy on this issue throughout the city for years to come. We hope that you will take the appropriate action to preserve this community with the means that you have available, both as a servant of the public and as a citizen of our city.

Thank you for your consideration.


Douglas Urbank

encl.: FPCC Membership

Thomas M. Menino, Mayor
Mark Maloney, Director, BRA
Senator Stephen F. Lynch
Representative John A. Hart, Jr.
Councilor James M. Kelly

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