The Public Arts Commission is pushing ahead with its plan to rehab the Beachmont Fire Station into a public arts center. The commission hopes to restore the building, which was erected in 1904 to host art exhibits and performances that will showcase Revere expression and talent.
This week, Elle Baker, the open space & environmental planner for the city, walked the commission through the results of structural and hazardous material assessments of the building. “The main building and the addition on the back are considered in fair condition,” Baker said. “There are no major structural deficiencies.”
But there are some problems. Asbestos was found in the basement and the interior paint exceeds the limits for lead. And the roof of the handsome building on Winthrop Avenue will need some work. Baker said that isn’t uncommon for a building that has been vacant for 17 years.
The commission recently held a public meeting to gather community input on ideas for the art center. “There were residents from all over the city,” said Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna, who has been spearheading the project.
The commission is aiming at making the center a place for people of all ages, backgrounds and all experience levels with art. And they have been getting some help with building that consensus. The board picked up a $46,000 technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council that will help with outreach strategies and case studies of other community projects that have restored similar buildings on created art centers.
McKenna initially envisioned a center with gallery and studio space and an area for teaching. But she recently spoke with a music teacher from Revere High who suggested the possibility of holding concerts at the center. The idea of theatrical performances naturally followed.
“We could have a café and serve coffee and pastry,” said McKenna, who added that the building already has a kitchen. “It could be an array of wonderful things.”
The commission also hopes to preserve and incorporate the station’s history into the plan. There is talk of a museum-style exhibit of historical artifacts from the fire department.
Although the cost of the project initially kept the commission’s hopes of success in check, McKenna is now optimistic that there may be some money available for the arts center through the American Rescue Plan Act fund.
Meanwhile, the commission is moving ahead with its other major initiative of installing murals throughout the city. They are currently seeking artists and designs for the Point of Pines Route 1A underpass and the Butler Circle MBTA wall.