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An artistic vision at Bartlett Station

Arts, public plaza will be at center of Bartlett Station development

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO
An artistic vision at Bartlett Station
One of Bartlett Station’s residential buildings under construction on Washington Street. Photo: Sandra Larson

With Bartlett Station’s first rental apartments and home ownership units now coming into view, a visioning and planning process has begun for a 15,000-square-foot outdoor public plaza expected to be built in 2019.

Announced recently by Bartlett Station co-owners Nuestra Comunidad and Windale Developers, the plaza planning effort is being guided by a team made up largely of local artists and arts leaders.

Bartlett Yard site plan


Author: Sandra LarsonThe Bartlett Station mixed-use development in Roxbury, viewed from Washington Street. Buildings currently under construction will contain home ownership units (right) and rental apartments (center). The empty area at Washington and Bartlett Streets (foreground) will be the site of a temporary art and performance series beginning in June.

On the web

Public plaza community survey:

https://bit.ly/2HLH9GJ

Bartlett Station project information: http://nuestracdc.org/our-housing/coming-soon-2/bartlett-station/

One of those leaders is Dumas LaFontant, director of the Lower Roxbury Coalition at the Whittier Street Health Center and co-founder of Z-Gallery, a Dudley Street space that showcases performing and visual artists, fashion designers and storytellers.

LaFontant helped recruit local artists onto the 11-member planning team, he said, including Matt Army, a creative writer and principle of NIMIC Media, and Cordelia Moye, a poet and television host who runs open mic events at Z-Gallery.

LaFontant, Army and Moye spoke with the Banner this week at Nuestra’s Dudley Square office.

In the works, they said, are a community survey and a series of focus groups to gauge what local residents and stakeholders want to see in a public plaza; a soon-to-be-launched website and social media presence; a temporary public art installation and arts series opening this summer; and an online “crowdgranting” campaign to fund the temporary programming.

The temporary installation will open in June on the large open area, yet to be built upon, at the corner of Washington and Bartlett Streets. Army described plans for a live event in which some 18 muralists will paint large storage containers that will help form an amphitheater facing a performance stage. The months-long installation will include indoor gallery space as well as outdoor activities and performances.

The community survey — available online now and soon to be circulated in other formats throughout Roxbury – is open until May 9.

“The hope is that we end up with a public plaza that will meet the needs of the community,” said Dumas. “That’s really the intent of the survey — making sure there’s buy-in and involvement from the community, in addition to having the data. We want to engage community members, get feedback, and then also keep them involved.”

Residents seeking more information on the community outreach process can contact Army at matt@nimicmedia.com.

The team has been assigned the challenge of raising funds for the temporary installation. One of their tools is Patronicity, a crowd-funding platform that links nonprofits and municipalities with partners that offer matching grants to help spur and multiply funding. The plaza planning team expects to partner with MassDevelopment, which will match the dollars they raise up to $50,000.

A large portion of the funds raised, Dumas said, will go toward artist fees. A key part of the vision, he noted, is to create opportunities for local artists — not only to showcase their work, but to provide real economic opportunities.

The permanent plaza will be located across newly-built Bartlett Station Drive, nearer the center of the development. The plaza’s design will be informed by the planning team’s visioning work. The plaza is expected to cost $1 million or more. Fundraising for its realization will involve seeking grants from large arts-oriented funders and is not part of the current artist team’s responsibilities.

Artistic vision

Planning team members expressed excitement about the potential of the new programming space.

“The public plaza bridges a gap,” said Dumas. “‘Facilities’ is on every artist’s list as a top priority. Having this will enable local artists to showcase their talent. The innovation with this project is that it will accommodate artists from all types of genres.”

Moye said she envisions an arts-focused public plaza leading to a new way of looking at Roxbury, the neighborhood in which she was born and raised.

“There are a lot of artists and people who appreciate art in Roxbury. What I want to see is more people from our community being proud that they have something that belongs to them and is dedicated to the arts in some way,” Moye said. “I can feel it becoming the next ‘it’ area, and that makes me proud.”

Housing update

When complete, the Bartlett Station development promises to bring a total of 323 residential units, including 194 rental apartments and 129 homes for purchase, as well as a grocery store and other businesses.

The largest commercial tenant secured so far is Washington, D.C.-based Good Food Markets, a grocery store that aims to offer products both affordable and healthful, according to Nuestra Comunidad Executive Director David Price.

Two buildings are under construction now: one, known as Building B in the plans, is a mixed-income 60-unit apartment building at Washington and Guild Streets; the other, known as Building E, faces Guild Street and contains the first 16 home ownership units. All of Building E’s market-rate units have been pre-sold, and there will be a lottery for the designated affordable units later this year, Price said.

By late 2019, another set of home ownership units along Guild and Lambert Streets should be under construction, Price told the Banner, as well as Building A, which will add 42 apartments and 36,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

Price encourages those interested in future home ownership opportunities to attend a May 3 meeting hosted by state Rep. Chynah Tyler at First Church of Roxbury, at which the Bartlett Station brokerage firm will be on hand and Nuestra Comunidad will provide project updates.