By Beth Treffeisen
For 45 years the New England School of Photography has called the iconic Kenmore Square home. Lasting through nine presidents and three Red Sox World Championship games, the school is being pushed out after development firm Related Beal bought the building this past October.
“We’ve been in Kenmore Square since the Rat [a famous punk club] was across the street,” said Alison Geehan the vice president of NESOP. “Although Kenmore Square has changed, we’ve been a stable fixture in it.”
The professional photographic training-school founded in 1968 has been located in Kenmore Square since 1972 after a short stint on Boylston Street. The school enrolls 90 full-time students and around 800 students in workshops each year.
The school announced the move at the end of July that they will be relocating to 274 Moody St. in Waltham this upcoming October. The new facility once housed the Center for Digital Arts but has been sitting empty for some time.
Related Beal scooped up the NESOP building along with eight others in Kenmore Square from Boston University this past fall. Although no current plans have been set, Related Beal has ideas on renovating the entire area.
Geehan said the school got the letter late last fall that the building was being sold to Related Beal. The lease that NESOP had with Boston University initially ended June 2018.
Ever since Related Beal took over the lease, Geehan said NESOP started to look for a new building, knowing that something was going to change with the new landlord.
Then this past June, NESOP received another letter stating that Related Beal will be exercising their right to an early lease termination in November 2017. But, since NESOP full-time program begins in October, it gave them very little time to find a new home.
Luckily enough, the new building in Waltham was up for grabs and is already equipped with the right electrical work and wifi to hold photography classes.
“It’s not that far away but people have had mixed feelings about it,” said Geehan. “It’s a very palpable feeling of nostalgia.”
Some students like the new location because parking will be easier find – which can be very difficult in Kenmore Square during Red Sox games – but others are disappointed because it is not as centrally located on public transit.
The school will help support students with the transition, whether it be finding a new transportation method to figuring out new housing locations closer to Waltham.
“People are generally happy about the move,” said Geehan. “We’re not going away, just moving.”
Kenmore Square is slated to have a lot of development in the future. Along with Related Beal capturing a bunch of buildings, two developers plan on working on two new hotels on either side of Beacon Street. If constructed, the hotels would be the tallest buildings in the neighborhood.
Geenhan said that although she doesn’t know anything about real-estate development she is interested to come back and see how the square continues to change.
“Everyone was up in arms when Hotel Commonwealth came in, but they ended up loving it,” said Geehan. “It changed the demographic of the Square but it still has the feeling of Boston because it is so close to Fenway Park. ‘Good old Boston’ won’t change no matter what you put there.”
She continued, “I’m curious and cautious to see what it will look like.”
But for someone who has been working at NESOP for close to 21 years, there is a sense of nostalgia and sadness.
Geehan said, “There’s nothing like the daunting staircase you climb when you go into the school and the smell of the fix that hits you when you first walk into the building.”