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Community visioning process could be on tap for proposed arts center

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  For the better part of a year, the Public Arts Commission has focused on the possibility of transforming the unused Beachmont Fire Station into a community arts center. Now, the city is taking steps to bring in outside consultants and the public into the process.

  At Tuesday afternoon’s commission meeting, Elle Baker, the city’s open space and environmental planner, said the city has secured funding for a hazardous materials and structural analysis of the old fire station. “I hope by the next meeting, we hope to have both completed or at least have them scheduled,” said Baker.

  In addition, Baker said the city has submitted an application to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to fund a community visioning process for the space. “We understand that at a high level we would like to make the transformation from a fire station into something that celebrates the fire station, as well as a welcoming space for community artists and a community art space,” said Baker. “With that, we have to find out what is the best way to facilitate that. The city is absolutely not in the habit of renting space to artists and things like that.”

  The city recently completed a visioning process for the shuttered McKinley School that sought input on how to best use that space for early education, community learning and performing arts space.

  “We know we are not reinventing the wheel, and MAPC can really help us strategize and plan with community input,” said Baker.

  In addition to the Public Arts Commission, the Fire Department and the Revere Society for Cultural & Historical Preservation were listed as community partners on the application. But Baker said any residents or neighborhood groups interested in the project should feel free to support and give feedback on the proposal.

  In addition to using the firehouse as a community arts space, the Fire Department has expressed an interest in using part of the building as a fire museum. “Fingers crossed we get funded for that,” said Baker. “We should find out before the next meeting whether or not that has been funded.”

  Public Arts Commission Chair and Ward 1 City Councillor Joanne McKenna, who has been a vocal proponent of the project, noted that there are artist lofts in East Boston that Revere could possibly use as a model for future development.

  “That is exactly what MAPC will help us do by looking at other case studies or other local areas in the state that have done similar types of projects … and were successful with it,” said Baker.

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