Thursday, June 20, 2024

The EMF Building near Central Square closes in April (Photo: Dana Jay Bein)

Musicians and artists already upset over the loss of the EMF Building near Central Square have a new cause for outrage.

The building’s practice rooms, art spaces, WEMF radio station offices and New Alliance recording studios are being evicted for an April closing by a developer who intends to remake the 120 Brookline St. space, presumably for a use that’ll bring in more money.

An estimated 200 bands, artists and nonprofit organizations who used the affordable space are being displaced, and Cambridge and Central Square will be taking another big step toward, in the words of councillor Quinton Zondervan, “losing our soul.”

But the musicians have discovered that the developer – John DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management and the Harvard Square Business Association – sent a letter March 20 to the mayor and City Council as a patron of the arts.

In the letter, being shared online and confirmed as authentic by the HSBA, DiGiovanni cites the city’s “vibrant and deep history related to music, live events and culture.”

“As a society, we grow tremendously through the artists and communities that spark conversation, imagination, love and reason for celebration. It’s why we listen to music, go to the movies, see live music and attend plays … [and there is] Hundreds of thousands of dollars of local economic impact – driven directly into our local hotels, restaurants, shops and vendors.”

But he’s not talking about EMF or other aspects of the local arts community, just about ensuring support for the annual Boston Calling Music Festival after its volume last year meant three days of misery for some residents across the river from the Harvard University Athletics Complex in Boston. The pricey music festival has since become a member of the Harvard Square Business Association.

To the musicians and artists gearing up for Monday’s meeting of the City Council, where an order by Zondervan asking for additional time for artist relocation will allow them to speak directly about the loss of EMF, this sounds like hypocrisy.

As musician Ruby Rose Fox said in a Thursday post on Facebook: “Wow. You can’t make this shit up.”

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that DiGiovanni and the development arm behind the EMF evictions, called Ledgemoor, are basically recapitulating the plot of countless movies from the 1980s: Evil developer comes in and threatens to destroy the local rec center, youth center, orphanage or whatever, leaving the scrappy underdogs to figure out a way to save it. You’ll find it in everything from “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” to “It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.”

As the Television Tropes website says:

This plot doesn’t have to center around an orphanage. Another popular variant is saving a family farm, followed closely by a youth or community center. Really though, as long as the building has someone’s welfare tied up into it, there’s probably an evil developer lurking in the shadows and planning its demise.

As unlikely as it is that EMF will be saved – this isn’t a movie, after all – the arts community online has leaned into the narrative:

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.