There is a certain truism in real estate—perhaps truer in the Hub than other places—that if the deal on rent seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is playing out particularly contentiously at Midway Studios in Fort Point.
The complex opened in 2005 as 89 live-work studios under the aegis of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and designed to be an affordable enclave for artists and craftsmen (and craftsmen who were artists). They could rent the rustic spaces on the relative cheap (scenarios of $1,825 for 1,500 square feet were not unheard of) and then buy them in five years. Just about everyone who moved in, then, expected it was a route toward property ownership.
Then, in 2006, the developer behind Midway Studios died and his executors told tenants that, well, they would actually have to wait 15 years before buying. The housing bonds that had financed part of the project required that waiting period, it turned out. That was the first bone of contention. It was followed by an attempt by the executors to convert the complex. They asked for $1,000 refundable deposits from those tenants who might buy—only 36 stepped forward. Maybe everyone who moved in wasn't a prospective buyer (the truism about what too good to be true can cut both ways, we suppose).
One tenant who did step forward, David Rogers, eventually worked out a deal with the executors that allowed him to lease the complex's prime theater space for his helmet-manufacturing company to cover financing obligations. This is the current and rawest bone of contention, one embittered further by a message that Rogers dashed off on Valentine's Day to tenants who didn't want his helmet company in the theater space. Per Geoff Edgers in The Globe:
The neighborhood “posers," he wrote, “are merely . . . drama queens who use art as an excuse to justify and rationalize their pathetic existence while mooching from others to sustain a living." He continued: “The majority of the people we are protecting are under 20 years old and have signed up for military service to earn money for college. They are not living off their parents, trust funds, welfare, or mooching off the American taxpayer like many of the residents of this building."
The message spurred a three-hour, packed meeting of tenants and BRA officials, and ended with many frustrations aired and Rogers refusing to apologize. (The BRA did pitch its idea for a smaller theater space in the building.) Brave local pols have sided with the majority of tenants, who appear to have been unified by Rogers' note. That, and surely no one wants to lose the deal on rent.