The Boston Globe Magazine had a story (by Nestor Ramos) the other week – Where have Boston’s artists gone? With rents climbing and live/work space in short supply, creative types are looking elsewhere.
In Boston, as in many cities around the country, many of the hovels that young artists adore and complain about and adore complaining about have either been torn down or gutted, newly refurbished with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and listed for prices that only the army of tech workers taking over the city could reasonably afford (not that there’s anything wrong with tech workers).Good article BUT, baby, that ship sailed 30 years ago. When I moved to Boston in 1980 (36 years ago!) Fort Point Channel and the Leather District were where all the artists lived. There were incredible soaring live/work studio spaces. They were rough as hell but, hey, who needs more than a cot and big industrial sink when you’ve got floor to ceiling windows, skylights and no worries about spilling paint on the floors.
That and at 23 – fresh off my Nf2 diagnosis and first brain fry up – I had mondo medical bills to pay. I was laser focused on survival – on living through it all and trying to find some acceptable perspective. At the end of the work day, if I was lucky, I’d the energy to hit The Rat or Pooh's Pub.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority now has a web page listing theoretically affordable artist live/work spaces. VERY cool. There wasn’t an offline version of this in the ‘80s. In 2002 the BRA began a certification process to make sure that actual real live artists got to dwell in these glorious digs. This is abundantly cool!
One of my big complaints was always that all the good live/work studios got snapped up by monied, non artist, hipstery types who just loved the idea of living in these awesome, light, cavernous, airy spaces. You know, live like an artist – seem cool, like an artist, but without out all the nasty muss, fuss, extra work and anxieties of one. The Richie Rich types drove the prices up so that we artist folk could no longer afford to live there.
Even with the good work of the BRA, the available spaces are too damn pricey for most. If you’ve got a partner whose income can float you (and no kids) – GREAT! If you’ve got family buckos – FABULOUS! If you gotta work and that gig’s barely enough to cover the rent on a cheap-o shared apartment, put food on the table and cover the door fee at The Middle East well, you paint in your bedroom or living room.
At Fort Point Place in the Seaport District, $3,000 a month will get you 1,025 square feet.
The Walter Baker Building in Dorchester starts at $925-$1,230 per month for about 480 square feet.
Art Block in the South End advertises small lofts for $590,000+ to buy or $2,600+ per month to rent. No specific square footage is listed.
At 735 Harrison Ave there’s a 959 square foot space for sale for $289,000. Best deal yet!
Studios at Brickbottom in Somerville (a truly nasty neighborhood but the building’s tremendous) went for an unaffordable (for me) average of $440,933 in 2014 – no openings there since then.
If I was just starting out now, I’d def look in Lowell or Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Lowell’s about 30 miles northwest of Boston and has a pretty hot, growing artist community. I’ve an acquaintance who has space up there. He says that at off peak traffic hours, he can get into Boston in 45 minutes or less. There’s a commuter rail stop too.
The Western Avenue Artists Lofts look outstanding – perfect even. The management rents both live/work and just work spaces. I didn’t see any prices listed but it’s just GOT to be more affordable than Fort Point and Brickbottom!
Boston – it's only for the rich, connected or VERY lucky now.