Uphams Corner artist space in jeopardy
More than 40 artists and creative-small-business owners working at Humphreys Street Studios in Uphams Corner are facing an unknown future tied to the impending sale of their building. After the passing of the property’s owners last year, 11-13 Humphreys Street went up for sale. Despite the hard work of artists, community activists and city government officials to negotiate a deal that preserves the artist space, the building is on the precipice of a sale to a developer with unknown intentions.
At a Zoom community meeting on Wednesday, June 9, the studio residents and their partners described the situation. “We are a diverse group of people, we’re all races, we’re all ages, many of us live nearby,” said Joshua Rose-Wood, an architect who works out of the Humphreys Street space. “So many of these types of buildings are disappearing from the city and are gone forever. We’ve been working for the last year and a half to try to find a way to preserve this as affordable workspaces.”
The sellers gave the artists until May to come up with an offer for preserving the space. The group submitted an offer and found out promptly afterward from the seller’s realtor that the seller had signed another offer from developer Mai Luo of Kendall Realty LLC. The purchase and sale of the property is set to be signed on July 5. If this happens, Luo owns the building and the artists’ fate is in his hands. Luo has not responded to any of the communications from the artists inquiring about his plans for the building or looking to collaborate to preserve the artist space.
“There’s almost no chance that what’s put there is anything other than market housing,” says Bill Madsen Hardy of New Atlantic Development, the affordable housing developer working with the Humphreys Street artists. “The only economic solution for a for-profit developer is knocking down those buildings.”
The artists have launched a campaign called “#ARTWORKSHERE, #ARTSTAYSHERE” to spread awareness of the situation and encourage community members to sign their online petition against the sale of the building. They hope the current owners will reconsider the sale and look seriously at the group’s new offer for the property. The second, higher offer from Humphreys Street Studios tops the offer from Luo that was accepted by the sellers, Rose-Wood says.
The ultimate goal for the artists is to preserve the existing studio space, with health and safety upgrades, and to build two three-family affordable housing units on the back lot to provide accessible housing to the Uphams Corner community.
Community members are encouraged to reach out to the artists for more information and to get involved. “We’re hoping to get our petition up to 1,000 people and really show the buyer that there’s a plan here,” says Ami Bennett, arts marketer and volunteer for the HSS cause. “We truly want to honor the legacy of the founding owner.”