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.
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
•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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
249 A Street Cooperative
•October 1982 - 72,000 sf mill building became
•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
•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.
“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.”
“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
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.
300 Summer Street
•The Artist Building at 300 Summer Street
was created in 1995, as a limited equity
•The mission was to create permanent
affordable artist live-work space in Boston.
FPAC was the nonprofit sponsor of its
•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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
•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
•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
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.
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
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.
A Wharf District
Vision and Plan
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
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.
2010 - In building that were once thriving with artist work space,
dark windows and vacant spaces now are the norm.
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.
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.
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
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.
Where have FPAC artists gone?
Rhode IslandNew York
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
Young artists, just graduating from area colleges no longer have a
place in the City to begin their careers.
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)
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
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.
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.
One of the special events at the Made in Fort Point store and Art at
12 Gallery on Farnsworth Street.
The annual Spring Art Walk at the Made in Fort Point store and Art
at 12 Gallery on Farnsworth Street.
Art openings help enliven the neighborhood after work hours. This
one is at the FPAC Gallery at 300 Summer Street.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
What is needed to keep a
creative community intact?
- Rental and ownership opportunities
- Variety of spaces - live/work and
- Range of size of spaces - room
- Places for the exchange of ideas
- Room for people starting out and
just out of school
- Range of ages for mentorship
- Stability and security
What are the barriers/
- Over-inflated real estate values
- Loose governmental oversight of
- Convincing broader audience of the value
of the creative economy
- Out-of-town property owners and
- Strained public funding for arts
- Fort Point is the “last frontier” for
downtown development (although it has
been seen as this since the ‘80s….)
- 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
- 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
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.