Monday, February 01, 2016

Shift in Use Brews Controversy at 411 New York Avenue

An artist's studio in the Union Arts Building at 411 New York Ave

The Washington City Paper is covering the latest developments at 411 New York Avenue, and how some of the artists based in the building are pushing back against the developers and asking others to join them at a hearing tonight at 6:30pm.

I've written before (lots of good background in that post) about the plans to transform the Union Arts Building at 411 New York Ave from what is a building primarily given over to arts uses, to a boutique hotel with eight (shared) artist work studios offered at below rate. I'm not exactly sure how many artists currently use the building, but it's a lot more than could reasonably share eight studios (a Union Arts representative quoted in the City Paper put the number at between 70 and 100).

To my knowledge there are currently three groups that are based in the building. Here's a brief explanation that I posted last fall: Nomad Yard CollectivUnion Arts DC, and Mousai HouseNomad Yard Collectiv is a collective shop that sells antiques, vintage items, and work by independent designers and indie artists. Union Arts DC is a group made up of resident artists who "use the space for teaching, rehearsing, and creating work springing from their own original visions." Union Arts DC provides "studio and rehearsal space for painters, musicians, photographers, filmmakers and designers. It also "hosts concerts, classes, exhibitions and a wide range of other events." Mousai House is a "service based company providing education, management, and production artists need to realize their potential." They seek to "provide a secure space for the community to cultivate their creativity thru art and music." They have regular jam sessions, teach free music lessons to community members, and provide artists with access to studio equipment.

The front of 411 New York Ave

I first learned details about the project at a November ANC 5D meeting (the one with dueling agendas). ANC 5D voted on the project, but there was so much drama at the meeting that I don't think we really got to did very deeply into the details of the project.

Back in November Nomad Yard Collectiv, a tenant of 411 New York Ave, held a "Discussion on Space," which I attended the first portion of. That was basically a big group discussion about arts spaces, their relationship with the community, the importance of securing space, and how to go about doing that. I hadn't heard a whole lot of chatter about this recently, and that's unfortunate because I'm not sure there's a high level of awareness of what's happening regarding the displacement of these tenants and where they will go. The case number is 15-19 for those who want to look it up in IZIS.


Anonymous said...

so, you're telling me the gentrifiers are now being gentrified out, and they are upset about it? hard to feel sorry for them, if you ask me.

poo poo said...

the artists are lucky they're getting anything at all. there's a reason that not every artist pursues "the life" of an artist.

if they really wanted the space, they should have tried to purchase it. it's not like new ownership was an unlikely event.

if it were a methodone clinic would anyone be complaining? nope.

if it were accountants, would anyone be complaining?


hyatsville has lots of space, and has been designated an arts district of sorts.

i'm a bit taken aback by their sense of entitlement.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and poo poo,

I don't know if you to realize how terrible the situation is that is happening in DC and cities across the country. Gentrifiers are not merely being gentrified out but something much worse is happening. Follow the link to read an article about this problem. I think it will help you two to be more compassionate.

Robin said...

You should go back to the ANC5D meeting notes. Yes, there was a lot of drama at that meeting, but the Commissioner for this area spoke very highly of the project and that the SMD was very supportive. She presented that it was very good step for the community.

inked said...

I remember the meeting and I did go back through the Storify & tweets I created at the time. Reaction to the project was very positive at the meeting. It was not controversial at all. I recall that Comm Henderson asked a question along the lines of displacement & the presenter said something about no residents (I'd need to actually check the tape for the exact wording). To the best of my knowledge there were no representatives for any of the tenants at the ANC 5D meeting. That might not have been the case had the agenda come out earlier. If the agenda had come out earlier other commissioners & residents also could have researched the location & project a bit. This is in Comm Peta-Gay Lewis' SMD, & she mentioned having an SMD mtg at which residents expressed support for the project.

curmudgeon said...

There is no question in my mind that DC is a better place to live if artists, musicians, etc. are valued and efforts are made to make it easier for people to do creative things.

However, there is also no question in my mind that when someone spends an enormous amount of money to buy a building, it's absurd to be angry at them for wanting to see some return on that enormous investment, rather than effectively just giving it away.

From the description of the plan in the WCP article, it sounds like the ownership is trying to find a way to walk the line; so I don't see what anger accomplishes.

Anonymous said...

It is worth noting that the closest residences to the Union Arts in that SMD are half a mile away on Mount Olivet Road, the edge of where the residential section of Ivy City begins. How many residents notice or care what is going on in the industrial space by Union Market? Their Commissioner said she thought the hotel/arts space would be an affordable place that would draw residents from Ivy City and unify the two. There was very little discussion on what they would be asking for from the community other that parking relief and zoning change so the height max is not 40 feet as they will build up to 90 feet. Unlike other projects there was no discussion about any sort of community agreement or that anything would be done for the community. This was very different from the HR-57 that wanted to have a music venue and the Commissioner of that SMD announced that her residents would all get a 10% discount whenever they went there. No wonder that place never opened. At minute 29 on the youtube video (part 2 of the meeting), they are asked about displacement and they say "no residents will be displaced". They glossed over the issue of artists and start up businesses that work out of the building.

Doug said...

These artists are on someone else's property. If the person who BOUGHT, PAIDED FOR, AND OWNS that property doesn't want them there anymore for whatever reason then that's fine by me. They have no right to claim otherwise. I'd be happy to have them stay in the neighborhood by either find another place to lease, or buy something of their own. Why don't they try to raise money to purchase this or another property instead of just whining. Sell some of that art that's so "valuable" to everyone, find some patrons willing to support you. There are business models for creating art. Squatting and trying to steal property from others is not one of them.

Critic said...

Unfortunately, majority of the art created in these so called artistic communities is no where at par with what's some of the atelier studios in southwest or NYC in terms of quality of work. Most of the art produced is amatuerish and some of it is downright abysmal. It's not like the Safehouse atelier from SF is getting pushed out.

Annoyingmous said...

Or in other words, ___(fill in the blank here)____ is so much better in NYC.