There will be a City Council subcommittee meeting tomorrow (Monday) at 5 PM at City Hall to discuss the future of the Foundry Building. As you may know, the City obtained this 53,000 square foot building close to two years ago in exchange for a major upzoning of some nearby East Cambridge property. Read more about the site’s history here.
Unfortunately, since getting the building the City has done very little with it other than let it sit empty and do a preliminary study of what it might cost to rehab it. Last December, the Manager, who at that point was Mr. Healy, suggested that he thought the Council wanted to sell it, but I am not sure that’s the case.
There have been more general subcommittee discussions of the Arts in Cambridge, the Foundry Building in particular and the creative economy, but the Building still lies empty. I worry that absent clear and consistent messaging from the general public about the future use of this building, we’ll wind up selling it with minimal protections for community uses (10,000 SF of the building has be dedicated to community use, but the Council could, I imagine, change its mind about that on any given Monday by following our rules about minimizing process when disposing of public property).
Personally, the more I see the Cambridge arts community, especially the youth-oriented arts community, in action, the more I think enough of this building has to be dedicated to those types of programs to keep them viable in Cambridge and to keep their staffs from having to spend all sorts of time and energy chasing down office, practice, performance and storage space. On my recent bike trip through rural New York and Western PA, I passed yoga studios, dance studios, arts studios and more in some very depressed areas. They always made me think that wherever the arts are, good things are bound to follow. The Foundry can’t be all things to all people, but it can be a lot of things to some very important programs, ranging from the arts to human services providers to, possibly, tech startups, and I am hoping that the Council and the City will help it become that as soon as possible.
If you can make tomorrow’s meeting, that’d be great. If you go, introduce yourself to other people and see if you can start connecting. As people meet over this issue and start to organize, perhaps even set up a website, we may see more intentional and focused thinking by everyone concerned with this building and that focused effort will, I hope, help us move to a better place faster than we have so far. I don’t know what the perfect answer is, but I do know that if we don’t spend a fair amount of time working on this issue, we’ll wind up in another twenty months where we are now, or worse, and that would be a real shame.