Lowell, Mass. Eastern Bank provided a $14 million loan to the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston for its purchase of Western Ave. Studios & Lofts (WASL). The WASL complex comprises 240,000 square feet of space, 250 artist-only work studios, 50 work/live studios and a brasserie, café and gallery, representing an economic development and cultural asset to the city and the -of the.
“Affordable housing is critical to maintaining the prosperity and growth of our local economy,” said Pamela Feingold, Senior Vice President and Group Director of the Community Development Lending Group at Eastern Bank. “Through a collaborative funding model with our community partners, the Western Avenue Studios & Lofts building will be preserved and rent for practicing artists will remain affordable.”
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston (A&BC) seeks to give artists and organizations the resources they need to practice their craft and grow their businesses. The purchase of Western Ave. is part of A&BC’s Creative Campus Initiative, a response to gentrification in Greater Boston and the resulting loss of affordable creative spaces for creative communities. This purchase ensures that the artist spaces of Western Ave. Studios & Lofts will remain affordable, community-based and dedicated to creative businesses.
“As our local communities gentrify, accessing capital to preserve their arts spaces becomes difficult,” said Jim Grace, executive director of the A&BC of Greater Boston. “As a community bank specializing in community development lending, Eastern had the experience to understand the unique economics at play and create the collaborative financing model needed to make this project successful. As a result, we expect artists at Lowell to have affordable and safe spaces to live and work for generations to come, maintaining a vibrant and active role for the arts in this community.
The community development lending team advising A&BC was led by Vice President and Relationship Manager Johanna Stone. Eastern partnered with BlueHub Capital, a community development finance institution, which provided A&BC with an additional $3 million in financing for this transaction.