The SoWa Open Market is a happening on Sunday. In a parking lot on Harrison Avenue, rows of white tents take the place of cars. People browse the stalls with their dogs and children, sampling local businesses’ wares: jewelry, hot sauce, veggie burgers. A DJ spins disco from a tent near the beer stall. Along the beer and across a cobbled path, a sign welcomes visitors into the wide brick building where artists have their studios.
The market, which takes place every Sunday from May to October, is one of several recurring events designed to draw a crowd to the SoWa arts and design district. SoWa — which stands for “South of Washington” — encompasses just a few blocks from the South End near Route 93. The designation is relatively new, coined by the area’s principal developer, GTI Properties. The company’s founder, Mario Nicosia, saw opportunities in the neglected neighborhood, where artists were already taking advantage of the cheaply priced old buildings, and decided to turn it into a cultural destination.
About 17 years ago, Debby Krim, a painter, photographer and jeweler, became one of the first artists to rent studio space in one of GTI’s Harrison Avenue properties. “When I came in, they had just started developing the lower floor of 450 Harrison Ave,” Krim says.
Back then, it was easy to find a studio in SoWa, Krim says. “It’s rare that even a spot is available, because we’ve had a waiting list for so many years.”
Over two decades, Crimea saw the run-down neighborhood transform with an influx of artists, designers and art dealers, now occupying more than 100 studios and galleries at 450 and 460 Harrison Ave. The pair of buildings is the center of cultural activity in SoWa, with artists occupying three floors of one building and galleries scattered across the lower floors of both buildings.
“It’s the coolest damn place in Boston,” Krim says with a smile.
But for some, the community is more fraught. “It feels lonely,” said LaiSun Keane, owner of LaiSun Keane Gallery. SoWa’s artists and gallers are predominantly white, and Keane, who is Chinese-Malaysian, feels her difference acutely. Her gallery focuses on art by women and people of color, a project she says people sometimes find alienating.
“When I try to tell people what I do, they don’t understand,” she says. “I can sometimes come across as aggressive and confrontational to them. And they don’t want to hear that.”
SoWa’s studios and galleries are generally not accessible to anyone without financial means. While GTI puts its prices slightly below market, the average cost of studio space, $25 per square foot per year, isn’t cheap. (By that calculation, a 500-square-foot space costs $1,041.50 per month; the studios range from 400 to 1,400 square feet.) Krim estimates that rents have doubled since she began renting her first studio. She is also in the minority as a full-time artist with a career spanning decades. Artists in the SoWa Artists Guild, which helps run Crimea, tend to be older, with the financial cushion offered by a more conventional career or marriage, though Krim thinks that’s about to change. “We have a lot of new, younger people who have come in,” she says. “I mean, we’re talking probably less than a dozen, but it’s still nice to see that because we haven’t seen that at all for a while.”
Nevertheless, the demographics of the artists remain fairly homogeneous. “There aren’t many people of color here,” said Nick Peterson-Davis, who runs the SoWa Artists Guild with Krim. “It’s probably 10%.”
Even Keane counts himself among the privileged. The gallery does not earn her a living wage and she depends on her husband’s income for financial stability. “I’m not doing this for the money,” she explains. “I’m doing this because I felt I had a point of view. I have to tell you something. And I also want to provide a platform for people like me who have something to say.”
Keane believes that in order to diversify the community, GTI should offer grants and programs to bring in artists and gallers from underrepresented backgrounds. “They could even start a residency for people of color,” she says, “so they can occupy a space here.”
Development comes to Nubian Square
Diversity is rarely a priority for developers, whose primary goal is to make their real estate investments pay off. In the case of SoWa, the artists also benefited from the increased housing density and foot traffic resulting from development. But the possibility of displacement always looms. This may interest you : NCET Biz Tips: Juxtaporing art to grow your business. Artists are often the harbingers of gentrification, drawn to run-down industrial areas by cheap rent and lax supervision. They help make the neighborhood trendy, which attracts developers, which increases property values, which raises rents, until the original artists and residents are priced.
Still, the appeal of the arts to improve a neighborhood remains strong. In recent years, both city and state governments have sought to leverage cultural activities to improve low-income neighborhoods of color in Boston. These plans aim to replicate the prosperity of aggressively developed districts such as SoWa and the Seaport without reproducing their damage, usually by involving local communities in the planning process. A popular slogan is “development without displacement” – perhaps more an expression of aspiration than a tried and tested recipe for success.
The portion of Roxbury that includes Nubian Square (formerly known as Dudley Square) was designated a state cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2017. The Cultural District program, according to the City of Boston’s website, aims to “attract artists and cultural enterprises” to a city, including “encouraging business and job development” and “improving real estate values.”
In the case of Nubian Square, the designation by itself did little to improve the neighborhood. A crisis was declared in 2019 after a number of Nubian Square businesses closed and a community gathering was held.
“What we found is that community members wanted to take devastated lots and transform them,” said Kai Grant, a member of the Roxbury Cultural District board of directors and co-owner of the Nubian Square event space Black Market.
For Grant, developing vacant lots could provide a solution to a problem that has long plagued the neighborhood where she grew up. “I’m tired of having to go to Copley or the Seaport or Cambridge or JP to get a glass of wine and see a show,” Grant says. “I shouldn’t be taking my money to South Boston and the Seaport to do that. And it’s created hundreds of millions of dollars of leakage that could stay here and build small businesses and build capacity outside of the non-profit industrial complex.
Now she has the chance to make Nubian Square a destination. A team led by Grant and developer Richard Taylor, who was involved in the development of the World Trade Center in Boston and the Big Dig, recently won a tender to develop a large urban lot in Nubian Square adjacent to the event space of Grant on Washington Street. The project, called Nubian Square Ascends, focuses on art.
“Art and culture take care of pedestrians,” Grant says. “It creates excitement. It transforms a community that was once destroyed into an open-air art gallery.”
The centerpiece of the multi-building project is a cultural hall, with rehearsal space and a 300-seat venue supporting music, theater and film. Grant wants the hall to become a hub for black culture in Boston, a place local organizations and artists can call home.
The proposed project has a price tag of a staggering $164 million and has yet to be fully funded. (The project recently received a $1.5 million grant from the state.) It aims to capitalize on the demand for lab space with a five-story life sciences building. Then there’s a parking garage, an “artists’ way” where local artisans can sell their wares, an “art lab” with production equipment available for artists’ use, and 15 apartments for artists, 10 of which will be affordable – though exactly how payable has yet to be determined. Grant aims to cater to a range of income levels.
“We want to give people on discretionary income some opportunities to support and support the businesses because you need both,” she explains.
Grant believes “development without displacement” is possible as long as a neighborhood’s existing residents are given opportunities to benefit.
“You do that by creating opportunities for people to earn a living wage,” Grant says. “You do that by giving people the opportunity to invest in a project. You do that by having a robust community benefits plan that gives nonprofits and various agencies opportunities to build capacity.”
Grant knows that major development projects like Nubian Square’s Ascends are creating fear in a community that has seen the ill effects of gentrification firsthand. But, she says, ‘we can’t live in fear of change. Change is inevitable at this point. There is a reason why there is so much plague in Roxbury. And I refuse to oblige to make things look bad so that I can feel better.”
Fears and broken promises
Aziza Robinson-Goodnight is one of the skeptics. The daughter of painter Paul Goodnight, she grew up in the South End’s Piano Craft Guild (popularly known as the Piano Factory), a building that has long housed affordable living/work apartments and a community of black artists of all disciplines. Robinson-Goodnight remembers it as an idyllic place, with high ceilings and lots of light. This may interest you : First person: discovering the taste and texture of music. Children roamed freely between studios where dancers, ceramists, builders, painters and photographers lived and worked. “There was room for everyone,” she says. “It was just a utopia.”
In the 1990s, the artists became involved in a legal dispute with the owner of the Pianofabriek, Simeon Bruner, who wanted to convert the subsidized studios into apartments in line with the market. The artists successfully fought against their eviction, but over time they were gradually replaced by tenants who paid market rates.
Now the building houses luxury apartments. Robinson-Goodnight believes Bruner, who bought the building with an affordable housing loan, saw artists only as an opportunity to make money. “I can see for miles when someone is going to use the artists to their advantage,” she says. (Bruner could not be reached for comment.)
To Robinson-Goodnight, Nubian Square Ascends seems more of the same.
“The project is going to increase rents and the value of the property,” she says. “It’s a wonderful project. I’m not going to say it isn’t a wonderful project. But I just see the Pianofabriek again, regardless of the face of the person presenting the project.”
It’s a fear developers know well.
“Promises have been made and broken. And damage has been done to the neighborhood. There has been trauma,” said Greg Minott, director of DREAM Development, a co-developer of another large mixed-use project in Nubian Square.
Minott believes his project meets the criteria for a development that will not displace local residents. The six-story building at 2147 Washington St. includes 62 affordable artist rental units, 12 mixed-income apartments, an artist’s space and commercial retail space.
But the hub of the project is a new 2,500-square-foot facility for the Haley House Bakery Café, a much-loved Boston nonprofit that started in 1966 as a South End soup kitchen. The new building will enable Haley House to operate in Nubian Square, where it employs people who have come out of prison and has a culinary training program for young people. The nonprofit will acquire the space for free in exchange for donating some of its land to the project. In 15 years Haley House will have the opportunity to take over the entire development. The project has recently secured funding and is expected to be completed in 2024.
Both 2147 Washington St. and Nubian Square Ascends underwent a community planning process overseen by the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee. But when it comes to the neighborhood’s fears of displacement, “I don’t think we can ignore it or just kind of dismiss it or move past it,” Minott says. Developers, he says, have to deliver on their promises. “Hold us accountable. We work for the community.”
*Spring Market $10 customer parking at 530 Harrison Avenue. New parking lot under I-93 GPS 324 Albany St. North of Boston Take I-93 through the BIG DIG Tunnel to the Mass Pike/Albany Street exit.
Where can I play with my dog in Boston?
Top 10 Best Play With Puppies In Boston, MA On the same subject : To combat the displacement, artists are buying real estate in Boston.
- Dog therapy. 8.0 miles. animal training. †
- Boston dog butlers. 0.4 miles. Dog Walkers, Pet Groomers, Animal Training. †
- Boston Animal Rescue League. 0.1 miles. 98 reviews. †
- Walk a puppy. 14.9 miles. †
- Boston Puptopia. 5.7 miles. †
- Go play! 7.1 miles. †
- Compatible dog center. 2.7 miles. †
- Perfect legs. 7.1 miles.
Is the Boston Freedom Trail dog friendly? Pets on the Freedom Trail Leashed pets are welcome to enjoy the Freedom Trail with you, as long as you collect them. Pets are not allowed in any building, but the trail passes through numerous parks and green spaces with shaded, comfortable areas where one can wait with the pup while the other can peek inside.
Can dogs enter Hobby Lobby?
Hobby Lobby Pet Policy We cried at their national customer service team and spoke to the lovely Angie, who said that while there is no official pet policy, dogs are generally allowed in their stores. It is up to management at each location whether dogs are allowed, so call ahead.
Is Boston a dog-friendly city?
Boston, MA Despite the city’s notoriously cold winters, Boston still manages to be a pet-friendly city. The ‘Hub’ is filled with dog-friendly neighborhoods, roaming community parks, and plenty of pet-friendly patios.
Where is Imagine Van Gogh Boston?
Prepare to see a lot of van Gogh in your Instagram feed: Imagine van Gogh, the second immersive exhibition of the painter’s work to be mounted in Boston this year, opened Monday night at the SoWa Power Station in the South End . This runs until March 19.
Are there two Van Gogh shows in Boston? BOSTON – Vincent van Gogh is so hot right now. Two exhibits reintroduce the Impressionist paintings to the Boston public. One is at SoWa Power Station. The other is at the Strand Theater in Dorchester.
How long is Imagine Van Gogh Boston?
The exhibition lasts about an hour. Plan to arrive 15 minutes before your ticket time.
Which is the real Van Gogh exhibit in Boston?
Mauger is the Lyon, France-based Artistic Director of â€œImagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totaleâ€ an exhibition that runs through March 19 at the SoWa Power Station in Boston.
Who owns SoWa Boston?
After a falling out between New England Open Markets LLC owner Chris Masci, the organizer of the beloved market, and Mario Nicosia of GTI Properties Inc., which owns the physical space known as SoWa (south of Washington Street ) € ), Masci has moved its operation to Ink Block, in partnership with National Development.