Hey, there! Log in / Register

Cambridge art crisis: City to look at possibly buying building where landlord is booting all the artists

Cambridge Day reports on the EMF Building situation.

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
Free tagging: 
Ad:

Comments

Why are artists considered such a protected class? What if the landlord was booting some small businesses that were actually employing people from Cambridge - would the city come in to save the property for those businesses?
I hate to say it but artists are their own worse enemy. Artists are almost always the seed that starts the gentrification process which eventually brings increased housing prices and displacement. Time and time again in so many cities.

up
Voting closed 27

Is not caused by artists moving in to cheap real estate, sure it may be a sign but it isn't a seed or cause or impetus. There are plenty of factors but gentrification is always driven by capital and is almost always set off or sped up by city or state policy decisions such as rezoning.

And Cambridge values artists as a protected class because it values art and recognizes that most artists could not afford to live in the city, therefore if the city wants the cultural and economic value ($175 million if you read the article) that they bring then they are happy to protect them.

up
Voting closed 50

Yup it's totally our fault. You caught us.

up
Voting closed 39

What if the landlord was booting some small businesses that were actually employing people from Cambridge - would the city come in to save the property for those businesses?

Cities do that quite a bit, in a variety of ways including, for example, local business zoning, funding 'incubator' facilities, etc.

up
Voting closed 16

Google "Somerville Theatre" sometime.

up
Voting closed 20

If you had it your way then, you'd kick out the elderly and the disabled too!

up
Voting closed 36

Artists are almost always the seed that starts the gentrification process which eventually brings increased housing prices and displacement.

Others don't want to say, but this is why they're protected. Wealthy people move to the neighborhood because they want to be around artists and feel cultured. So, when the neighborhood becomes too expensive for artists, they lash out at the landlords and developers kicking them out.

up
Voting closed 25

The artists in artist housing tend to be young, white, childless, not super poor, not on vouchers, and able-bodied and able-minded - i.e. they aren''t in the demographics traditionally discriminated against.

Supporting specifically "artist housing" is a way for people to feel good and progressive, "look at me I an not NIMBY I supported these Affordable units next door!" without having to live next to (many) black/brown people, people in poverty, people with "uncomfortable" disabilities.

Artists are socially acceptable low-income people.

up
Voting closed 14

Employing 100+ over a failing artist. We should not be subsidizing artists in lieu of job creators. Go paint in western mass where rents are cheaper.

up
Voting closed 11

The artists are paying rent and the city would continue to charge them.

up
Voting closed 78

if Adam sits at home and laughs at the white privilege Reddit he's created here.

up
Voting closed 39

...I think he does most of his laughing at the Nightclub Liquor hearings.

up
Voting closed 32

Is unbelievable.

(Ooohhh, dun dunit dun dunit dun, so unbelievable)

up
Voting closed 16

This is what the anti-NIMBY crowd wants: build baby build! displace residents in the name of high-density luxury housing! local community groups be damned! screw the little guy! developers are our heroes!

up
Voting closed 44

As a moderate, ACLU-supporting liberal who sometimes clashes with more extremist voices on left when upholding valuable principles sometimes creates undesirable outcomes, I see parallels here. Furthermore, flourishing artist communities cannot be mandated from above; they need to emerge and perpetuate organically.

It's frustrating that real estate is so highly priced in cities right now, and that one's ability to live in a given place is determined by earnings and not one's history, identity, and value to society, but this will remain the case until the macroeconomic winds shift and real estate is no longer one of the best ways to keep one's accumulated wealth from being sucked upward.

This isn't to say that top-down intervention isn't sometimes the right decision, and here perhaps it is -- rather, my point is that such interventions are drops in the bucket until the real estate bubble pops, which may happen in upcoming decades as the baby boomers die off, wages continue to be suppressed by corporations and the Fed, and the banks are left with a surplus of housing that nobody can afford.

up
Voting closed 9

The lack of supply is what props up the prices, and that's not a bubble, that's real. You'd be more right in saying that there's a jobs bubble that's forcing that demand up in the presence of constant supply.

If you want cheaper housing in Cambridge, then you need to build Levittown-style suburbs outside 128 and more park-and-ride stations along the commuter rail to relieve the pressure on people buying in Cambridge to be close to work. And to make that politically palatable to Cambridge, you'd need to allow municipalities to collect income taxes to offset the loss in property values.

17th century governance models imported from rural England aren't working too well in 21st century Massachusetts.

up
Voting closed 39

Then you went right for a "solution" that is a huge cause of the problem.

This ain't Oklahoma - we need to build up, not build out.

up
Voting closed 7

Half the land (or more than half the land) within the 128/495 commuting zone is laying fallow and what housing there is there is choking on underdeveloped road and rail.

And I hate to break it to you, but no matter how much you lefties harangue and yell and scream "racist!" at people who want more than a 600 sq ft apartment with a small balcony and loud neighbors, a large fraction of people are going to want to live in a normal house with a normal yard. A large part of the reason they don't around here is that there's so little of it that it's not affordable. City-slickers seem to confuse that economic reality with "not wanting" to live in suburbs. The sky-high price of even modest homes on modest losts in places like Lexington, Concord, Natick, and Framingham is ample evidence that this is not the case.

Before you waste untolds hundreds of millions building up, you can build in with low-density development that's cheaper to build and more desireable for more people to live in. Do that and watch a lot of the self-imposed problems around here melt away.

up
Voting closed 14

Take Readville as an example. There's a development on Sprague St. Another going on the high end of Hyde Park Ave. Hundreds of units, all have access to the two train lines, the main line and the Fairmount line.

Man, they are going to be pissed when they find out the train infrastructure simply ain't up to par for handling the increased load. I think the 600 pound gorilla in the room is the inability to get from point A to point B. We really need new signalling, upgrades to existing roadbed and rails and better rolling stock.

Some of this is happening, but until it's done, the system will be a mess.

up
Voting closed 38

We're still riding the same, national real estate bubble that came into being in 2001. That bubble jacked the prices up initially by approximately 3x the legitimate value. In very few locations the prices somewhat normalized afterwards, but never much in Boston because the bubble coincided with a number of other factors increasing movement of populations into Boston, causing a housing shortage at the same time as the bubble. If we could mandate a return to the proper real estate prices adjusted for inflation from 2000-2018, we would likely only be at around 1.5x legitimate value due to the housing shortage.

up
Voting closed 12

Explain how you calculated that, please.

up
Voting closed 34

It's frustrating that real estate is so highly priced in cities right now, and that one's ability to live in a given place is determined by earnings and not one's history, identity, and value to society, but this will remain the case until the macroeconomic winds shift and real estate is no longer one of the best ways to keep one's accumulated wealth from being sucked upward.

Wouldn't white supremacists want a person's given place to be determined by history, identity and (who decides who's) value to society? I realize that's not what you meant but...

So, a big problem with this is that it only protects certain artists, not art in general. Many artists support themselves with their art, at least partially. I think that a municipality should worry more about about keeping art in public education.

up
Voting closed 5

Many of these artists also teach - both in the "private lesson" sense and the "public school" sense.

up
Voting closed 26

Why are they entitled to low cost housing?

up
Voting closed 31

The anti-NIMBY crowd wants residents to stop acting like they live in a gated community frozen in time. They want intelligent and logical debate around issues that projects present, rather than the foot stomping generally seen about traffic and shadows, two perfectly reasonable topics for debate that are used ad nausea to cover up for residents real concerns about their own self-interest and, very often, their own prejudices about who will be moving in to the neighborhood.

up
Voting closed 56

It was a scary sight. Roving bands of toughies grabbed people off of the streets and forced them to be artists. These people, with no other choices in life, were forced to make crafts, make pottery, and play music loud, all with cheap rent while the others of society, who lived by their free will paid market rent.

It was a terrible day back then.

Now they are being forced to face the reality that they were pushed into by the evils of society.

One teacher, who in their chosen job passes on the cultural mores of society, openly wept as these poor people are being coerced to come to the same level of the economic operation of the world as the bank tellers, store clerks, middle managers, and online bloggers.

O! Dies Irae!

up
Voting closed 55

Most of the young artists I am friends with actually have well-off parents and grandparents who give them money all the time. Because of that I don't feel guilty when they pick up the tab.

up
Voting closed 45

I can see the milk of human kindness that comes from being an obsequious supporter of the vampires that are ruining this town flows freely through your veins. And I testified at that meeting last night. Where were you?

Who knew when I testified that without art there is no humanity, that I would be speaking of you?

up
Voting closed 15

Yes, of course.

However, subsidizing a chosen way of life at the expense of others who also contribute to society, if not even at a greater rate than the person writing poetry as a profession, is disingenuous to the rest of society.

Why wasn't I at the meeting last night? I can't afford to live in Cambridge, that's why.

up
Voting closed 45

Big fan of Ayn Rand?

And I don't see you bitching about the people who derive income from the same artists being displaced when they pay rent, or buy groceries or pay taxes on their meager earnings while those who displace them were the impetus for Harvard Square losing it's artistic bent and now looks like a strip mall and write hypocritical letters supporting the arts when his pals at Boston Calling needed some love from the city of Cambridge.

I suppose you have sympathy for John DiGiovanni, the Lionel Barrymore of this twisted scenario, who didn't even have the balls to show up. And I can't afford to live in Cambridge either, but I still managed to get there.

up
Voting closed 44

Wah! Harvard Square isn't the same, wah! Harvard Square was gone when Urban Outfitters moved in 30+ years ago. Stop looking for the sepia tone solution of the past. Anyone under the age of 45 at this place has no idea what Harvard Square was like pre-One Brattle or the KSG anyway. All the good stuff was already on Thayer Street and Allston by 1990.

You want to see artists who work in the free market? Go to Rockland. Go To Brockton, Go to Holyoke. Go To Lowell. Go to Portland. Go to Dover NH. There are artistic communities there that own their own buildings or lease space en masse where they know the economic realty can work in tandem with their chosen lifestyle.

As far as the Ayn Rand comment, I guess you just like histrionics. Hell, even she took social security, thereby nulling every point she ever made about government interference anyway.

up
Voting closed 36

Harvard Square was gone when John DiGiovanni helped the Gap break the no chain store philosophy of Harvard Square 35 years ago and has profited greatly from the reputation that you now shit all over as some relic of the past I hang on to.

And I do go to those other places to seek art, but I should forget about Cambridge, a city that has prided itself as a haven of learning and culture because you think I'm some luddite townie who objects to paying 15 bucks to a chain like Shake Shack for a hamburger when there is Bartley's down the street offering a better product?

up
Voting closed 24

Why do artists need to live in Cambridge vs. Chelsea or Everett or Revere? In the modern era, art has always thrived in the less refined neighborhoods. In the 70s/80s, the Lower East Side of Manhattan was the place but now that same energy is across the river in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx and so it goes. Art is important but I have a hard time with the claim that certain specific artists deserve protected spaces in specific locations, effectively as lottery winners.

In terms of the regional interest, I'd rather see places like Cambridge be forced to house more low and median income residents to help alleviate the pressures on Boston neighborhoods but that's a whole other topic.

up
Voting closed 8

They don't live at the EMF buidling, they practice there and in the case of some artists there, teach kids music that their school systems can't afford to.

up
Voting closed 38

"Olivia D’Ambrosio, whose recent run for City Council was explicitly as a working artist who intended to support the arts – which she identified from a summer report as an annual $175 million economic boost to the city, for which the municipal government spends $1.1 million a year."

I don't know how accurate those numbers are, but even if it's not quite as insane of an ROI as she is saying, then that is why Cambridge wants this.

up
Voting closed 32

Please, we would love to see a break down of those numbers.

How much is can be attributed to the ART, tourist spending for the Harvard Art Museums, hell, even the Fresh Pond and Kendall Square cinemas? These aren't the starving artist types exactly.

I can tell you this, a string of shows on the second floor at the Dance Complex isn't contributing $175,000 to the city annually, let alone $175M.

Double check the math on that study. You may see some funny assumptions.

up
Voting closed 10

And read it.

And aren't you the one who bitches incandescently about anyone daring to talk about anything in Boston.

GO AWAY. This ain't your beat, gramps.

up
Voting closed 47

"Arts and culture is a $175 million industry in Cambridge, supporting the equivalent of 6,129 full-time jobs annually, according to a report released over the summer, but it’s not clear how much of this economic activity has slipped away in the past few years or how much is at risk as the city changes."

"The nonprofit arts industry in Massachusetts supports 73,288 jobs and generates $2.2 billion in economic activity, including $880 million from audiences, according to the report, while New England as a whole had 310,000 people in the “creative economy” generating nearly $17 billion a year."

"By surveying people at Cambridge cultural events last year, the Arts Council learned that spending for each of around 1.6 million attendees was around $34 per event – spread among such things as dinner at a restaurant, shopping in nearby stores and paying a babysitter – but that the 52 percent coming in from out of town spent much more than locals, considering the expenses of hotels and parking garages: Nonresident attendees spent an average of 71 percent more per person than local attendees, the study says, or $43 vs. $25. The $55 million spent by everyone attending events in Cambridge once again soars over the national median of $19 million."

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2017/10/03/arts-economy-is-giant-175m-in-cam...

Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 provides evidence that the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a significant industry in the City of Cambridge—one that generates $174.8 million in total economic activity. This spending—$119.8 million by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and an additional $55 million in event-related spending by their audiences—supports 6,129 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $98.3 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $13.6 million in local and state government revenue. This economic impact study sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in the City of Cambridge’s economic well-being.

Economic Impact: Total, Direct, Indirect, and Induced
How can a dollar be respent? Consider the example of a theater company that purchases a five-gallon bucket of paint from its local hardware store for $100—a very simple transaction at the outset, but one that initiates a complex sequence of income and spending by both individuals and other businesses.

  1. Following the paint purchase, the hardware store may use a portion of the $100 to pay the sales clerk who sold the bucket of paint. The sales clerk then respends some of the money for groceries; the grocery store uses some of the money to pay its cashier; the cashier then spends some of the money for rent; and so on.
  2. The hardware store also uses some of the $100 to purchase goods and services from other businesses, such as the local utility company, and then to buy a new bucket of paint from the paint factory to restock its shelf. Those businesses, in turn, respend the money they earned from the hardware store to buy goods and services from still other local businesses, and so on.
  3. Eventually, the last of the $100 is spent outside of the community and no longer has a local economic impact. It is considered to have leaked out of the community.
  4. The total economic impact describes this full economic effect, starting with the theater’s initial paint purchase and ending when the last of the $100 leaks out of the community. It is composed of the direct economic impact (the effect of the initial expenditure by the theater), as well as the indirect and induced economic impacts, which are the effects of the subsequent rounds of spending by businesses and individuals, respectively.

http://www.cambridgeday.com/PDFs/pdfAEP5Cambridgefull.pdf

up
Voting closed 28

I paint in my free time and still work. These people should get actual jobs and do art as a hobby.

up
Voting closed 33

I highly suggest that you read the article.

ProTip: many of these people have more jobs than you do

up
Voting closed 8

They use the space to hone their art. No one there is looking for a handout, just a stay of execution or possibly some long term redress from the vampires that are trying to turn Central Square into the soulless tech nightmare that Kendall Square is or the white privilege strip mall that is now Harvard Square.

up
Voting closed 55

It may be that they have to "hone their art" somewhere else. Look, I have lived in this area all my life and I can say that the central square art community (I did not even know it existed) has had no impact on the quality of it. And has that been a cause of much sorrow to me? No. And I dare say, in regards to their arguments that they spend mucho bucks in the area, well, so do a lot of other people (and probably many more than those who reside in their building) who, say, work in that "soulless tech nightmare" of Kendall Square. Those who do have mucho bucks and wish to grab a bit of lunch or dinner.

I am not a keen believer that art and/or artists will save the world, as many do. If you decide to pursue that line of work, it comes with some risks. One of them being that you may loose your sweet living arrangements and/or practice spaces (god forbid). And should they get special treatment as in reduced rents and/or buildings just for them to "hone" their art of dubious quality while the rest of the unwashed masses try to figure out how to afford to live near (i.e. as close as affordably possible) where they work so they do not have a 3 hour daily RT commute (by way of just one example)? Well, I will let the philosophers who post here decide the answer to that question.

up
Voting closed 43

that's it. One building in what's left of a neighborhood.And again, none of the artists live in the building. And I'm well aware of gentrification, as this town used to be a nice place to live if you didn't have money.

And while you're going on your little tangent, ever heard of an artist and creative person named Jony Ive? Think his art has benefited you and humanity in any way?

up
Voting closed 53

Jony Ive? Nope. Never heard of him. So I googled him. Head of design at Apple. A company led by the late sociopathic assh*le Steve Jobs. A company of dubious manufacturing practices and, in which, will probably go down in history for the I Phone Zombie phenom and the countless deaths and accidents due to distracted drivers who can't put the damn thing down. Ah, yes. I can safely answer your question now.

No.

up
Voting closed 35

Any of that enmity reserved for our home grown purveyors of death Raytheon while you're shitting yourself trashing a company whose products don't kill people?

And if you had ever met Jobs, he was no sociopath, but you keep indulging in the fantasies you've been promoting in this thread. Unless you don't own a smartphone?

up
Voting closed 36

Well, no, I have not met Mr. Jobs but I work with plenty of folks who have and let us just say, they confirm my analysis. But you keep putting him on your pedestal if it makes you get up in the morning.

And, yes, I do own a smartphone. As well as a dumbphone. So there you go.

I have no prob trashing any "purveyors of death" including Apple :)

up
Voting closed 31

and I can confirm that your friends are as full of shit as you appear to be.

Apple, merchants of death! Somewhere behind Blackwater and Lockheed, I suppose!

up
Voting closed 32

Google Riccio and Apple.

He's full of crap otherwise, but he's got us all here.

up
Voting closed 30

No, he does not. Steve Jobs was a horrible man to work for. He may have been nice to Brian once but that doesn't sum him up as a person does it?

up
Voting closed 34

Did you.

up
Voting closed 26

Yes, I did. A Riccio works for Apple. This does not diminish one iota of Steve Job's nastiness or the manufacturing practices of Apple. Any other questions?

up
Voting closed 16

'White Privilege'? I think you mean socioeconomic privilege. Anyways, soon ,it will probably be primarily 'Asian Privilege'; will you be throwing out that phrase,too?

up
Voting closed 5

that term can pretty much be used when applicable, but in this town, my term has a little more weight, no?

up
Voting closed 29

McGovern said of DiGiovanni: “It is a private real estate sale by a private owner with tenants who are tenants at will that he can evict within 30 days. He has that right.”

up
Voting closed 19

They're not trying to make him keep the tenants, they're talking about the City buying the building and taking over the tenants.

up
Voting closed 21

That's going to get turned into condos and there will of course be zoning variance applications from the owner. And the city will grumble and cut the mythical proposed units to a "compromise" number of units that was always intended in the first place.

up
Voting closed 35

There is some issues with old contaminants in the building and it will be used for office space eventually, not living.

up
Voting closed 4

In addition, emails shared with WBUR’s The ARTery and Cambridge Day reveal claims by DiGiovanni of safety hazards and ground contamination, including to the Central Square Business Association, but artists and Zondervan aide Dan Totten said their consultations with safety officials have found no documentation to back that up.

up
Voting closed 50

Ooohhh, so unbelievable.

up
Voting closed 31

"Artists are almost always the seed that starts the gentrification process"

This is it exactly. Because money wants what it can't buy.

up
Voting closed 27

I've dealt with these folks for 30+ years - The higher income yuppies that buy into the gentrifying neighborhoods have a kind of culture guilt that needs to be satisfied. Especially if they like to fancy themselves as 'progressive' minded. It's like they feel like they need to appreciate stuff like jazz, abstract art and ethnic poetry slams, even though deep down inside they feel no connection and would quietly really rather be home on the couch watching Quantico. They can't accept that they are the modern day equivalents of the grey flannel suited company men of their (grand)parents era. So their corporate employers dressing up their office space to look 'hip' and 'arty' tells them that they are hip and arty too (ie more progressive and creative than their (grand)parents). Just as parking their Range Rover in some proximity to 'gritty' and 'authentic' artists allows them to see themselves as sort of edgy and authentic too. It's edifying to them to be near Art in controllable and manageable doses.

up
Voting closed 43

You hit the nail on the head. I think that's why there are so many angry people commenting who are opposed to artists NOT being kicked out of their city apartments. They lead lackluster dull lives devoid of music, art, literature and culture and are jealous of those who don't follow their lead.
Boston/Cambridge subsidize corporations who consistently fail to honor their promises to hire employees, so why not spend a few bucks in order to keep cities vibrant by helping rent-paying artists stay in their homes?

up
Voting closed 41

Artists do not cause gentrification.

If you actually want to read about what causes gentrification then read the excellent book "How to Kill a City" by Peter Moskowitz. But lets just say it's really the people with power and capital that cause gentrification, not artists and hipsters. They are just a cog.

up
Voting closed 21

I have mixed thoughts on this.

One , everyone always blames the developer but someone sold him that building knowing what his other buildings look like. He keeps a very nice looking portfolio but he is not known for taking a loss and will make his property look just hip enough to not be a waiting room but not artsy enough to gain any notice.

Two, I get why the city would want to save this building and I get why this class is "protected" We all want to live near cool things but what happens when those cool things are no longer able to thrive in the environment build up around them? There is a reason why the Harvard Square Business Association spends millions of dollars importing in cool stuff. Because the store fronts themselves have become blander with every passing year as prices climb.

Seeing both sides I still do not see what the city really can do to slow this down. If the public is that interested in it they should pay better attention in the future and try to buy these buildings outright when they go on the market. As for this building they could go the full scale capitalist route and just protest at events run by his business group , especially arts based events. Street performers on the corners can spread the word on a daily basis. They must have monthly board meetings somewhere that people can show up at. Better yet, fill up all the slots at the music event and then turn the whole thing into a protest anthem. Don't wait around for others to save you, this could be a classic 1980's NYC style movie scene!

up
Voting closed 12

One: the little I've been able to dig up on this guy is that he's just another in a series of people who have been profiting from the inevitable change of this town. He and his incestuous little group of like minded pals have no problem jerking off whoever politically or in the media they have to so they continue the facade of being respectable businessmen and not the leeches they are.

Two: Again,no one lives at the EMF building. They practice their respective arts there.And in what plane of reality can you equate the aesthetics of the stores in Harvard Square to artists asking they not be thrown out on the street with short notice? Are you serious?
So blame a bunch of musicians for not keeping as close an eye on the real estate market as John DiGiovanni and his pals do. Yup. Their tough shit, right? And lastly, the musicians are boycotting events that the HSBA, which DiGiovanni chairs, sponsor in the Square.

up
Voting closed 38

Your bit seems to be that you shoot from the hip but I ask that you slow down and read before you shoot off. At no point did I say they were living in that building, you can read it 5 times it is not there. So before you imply I did not read the article please make sure YOU read.

As I said, I am not defending him or his people. I am suggesting that those interested in protecting certain groups need to be more proactive about doing so. Any reasonable person should have been on the look out for things to change suddenly in Cambridge.

up
Voting closed 28