Monday, April 30, 2012

Scrapping the artists

Here's the story: There's a 1.6-acre property adjacent to the National Institutes of Health Open Space in Bethesda. The initial proposal by developer Patrinely Group of Houston, Texas included 25 percent "moderately priced dwelling units and about 2,000 square feet within the main building for an arts incubator, which would have offered studio and exhibit space for emerging artists." That all went away when the condo market collapsed in Bethesda and now StonebridgeCarras, which purchased the site about a year ago, has a new proposal:
The vacant Trillium lot could be home to 360 luxury appartments and a grocery, if plans are approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday.
And first thing to go in the StonebridgeCarras proposal: The arts incubator.

How does the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce feel about that?
 “We really support that,” said Ginanne Italiano, executive director of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not the whole concept that the other organization had, but I think this is going to be an even better concept.”
Yeah Ginanne, another grocery store is an even better concept than an arts incubator. After all, there are only about a dozen or more grocery stores in Bethesda and ahhh... zero affordable space for artists and nothing even remotely close to an arts incubator, and most Bethesda area art galleries have closed in the last couple of years; thank you for your moral support.

Good move StonebridgeCarras (nice artsy name!) and let DC Art News be the first to welcome to Bethesda, yet another Safeway, or yet another Giant, or considering the artsy name of the developer, perhaps another Whole Foods.

Makes my head hurt.

Read the Gazette story by Jessica Ablamsky here and read the developer's news release here.


Anonymous said...

Another developer uses the arts to close a land deal in the DC area, then changes the plan. Didn't see that one coming!

Robin Tierney said...

More reason to move to the Gateway AED in PG County.

johnjamesanderson said...

If it is a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods, they hire artists to draw on chalk boards. THERE is your arts incubator! (audible eye-roll)

Drew said...

I actually support the grocery idea. It's better over all for the community by providing jobs to those low skilled workers who need them most. Let the elite worry about the lack of art after the State recovers from the economic disaster of the last 3 years, While most in the area were never affected by the recession, I and many other middle class wage earns say bring on the jobs. We need the jobs.

Steve Moen said...

The Art Incubator idea was hatched in 2006. Then the real estate market collapsed in 2008 dramatically changing everything, especially for the players in this story: developers, artists and local government. Montgomery County is now running big budget deficit even with cuts – 300 million in 2012. In 2006 this project planned 200 residencies and now its 360 luxury residencies. That’s a lot of potential tax revenue for the county and more people with money to buy art. Maybe its a good direction to go at this time.

Anonymous said...

According to the Census, Montgomery County is the 12th richest county in the nation - and yet they are so badly mismanaged that they have huge deficits, charge for ambulance service, etc. and can't afford an arts incubator.

Incredible uh?

Lenny said...

WOW Drew... I never knew that the son of immigrant parents, she a seamstress and he a longshoreman could grow up to be an "elite" !!!

Only in America... wotta country!

Lenny said...


I wish it was as simple as "more people with money to buy art" - it is all such a complex tapestry... hard to figure out what's the chicken and what's the egg... but without a viable and VISIBLE art presence -- which has evaporated very quickly in the last few years from Bethesda -- the train comes off the tracks and the arts disappear... it's not an easy process... and thus why artists always seem to migrate to very poor/affordable neighborhoods, while the richer places - like Bethesda - aspire to have an artsy presence, but do little in the end to achieve it... not for lack of trying though...