Boston approves deal for new rehearsal complex after Sound Museum silenced

The Brighton Sound Museum on North Beacon Street. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The Brighton Sound Museum on North Beacon Street. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The city of Boston approved a developer’s plan to demolish the building that housed the Sound Museum, a large rehearsal complex in Brighton. In exchange, the developer will gift the city a nearby building to convert into affordable, long-term rehearsal space.

The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture hopes to provide new practice space to the hundreds of musicians who were displaced when the Sound Museum shut down earlier this year. Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture Kara Elliot-Ortega said it was the first time her office had worked with a developer to acquire property to use for permanent arts space.

“It’s a historic moment,” Elliott-Ortega said. “We’re really excited about it, and ready to move on to the public process to determine how we’re going to build out the space.”

The Boston Planning and Development Agency board approved developer IQHQ’s proposal at a public hearing on Thursday, June 15. The deal was the result of the Article 80 review process, which requires developers to mitigate the community and environmental impacts of certain kinds of projects. As part of its plan to demolish the building at 155 North Beacon St. to build labs, life science developer IQHQ agreed to donate the 35,000-square-foot building it owns at 290 North Beacon St. to the city to convert into a rehearsal complex. (IQHQ paid $18 million to acquire that property.) It also agreed to build new lab classrooms at Brighton High School.

The vote capped a tumultuous year-and-a-half of street protests and testy public meetings as tenants of the Sound Museum fought to stay. The Sound Museum is a local business owned by Bill and Katherine Desmond, who have operated various music and art-making spaces in the Boston area since the 1980s. Initially, IQHQ promised to help the Desmonds find a new building for the Sound Museum, but the developer ultimately offered to donate 290 North Beacon St. to the city instead, causing the Desmonds and some of their tenants to cry foul.

There was little dissent at the public hearing on Thursday, where the project was expected to pass, and did. Several musicians submitted statements in support of the plan, which they said would create desperately needed music rehearsal space in Allston-Brighton, where rising real estate costs and an expanding biotech industry are driving musicians out.

Thursday’s vote makes binding IQHQ’s commitment to transfer 290 North Beacon St. to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, a process that will likely take a few months to make official. In the meantime, the city will solicit community feedback on its request for proposals to convert the building into rehearsal space. It expects to start that process by the end of the summer.


Amelia Mason Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.



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