Villa Victoria Center for the Arts Could Start Demo Monday

The Villa Victoria Center for the Arts on West Newton Street – a former German church from the 1800s – could begin demolition as soon as Monday, IBA Director Vanessa Calderon-Rosado said this week.

The former Center, which was purchased by IBA in the 1980s and converted to an Arts Center, had become structurally deficient. When trying to repair it, the organization found it was likely beyond reasonable repair. Instead, they plan to demolish the building and begin a planning and fundraising process to build a brand new Center on the site.

Work on that could be as soon as Monday.

“Last Thursday we submitted all the final paperwork and checklists to ISD,” said Calderon-Rosado. “We’re just waiting for the final demo permit. We believe we might be able to get everything together and start next Monday. We’re in a holding pattern now for the permit. It’s the last thing we’re waiting on before we can get started.”

If it starts on Monday, that will begin the Active Phase of the demolition, and will include closing that stretch of West Newton Street by O’Day Playground for one week to accommodate cranes and other dismantling machines.

“That will last about a week and will be to knock down the building,” she said.

After that first week of active demolition, the project will move into more of a quiet phase as crews work for about four months to completely clean up the site and remove all of the debris safely.

In that time, she said they wanted to make sure lines of communication remain open to abutters, neighbors and businesses in the area. Anyone who has a concern or suggestion can e-mail the project team at [email protected].

While that is happening, Calderon-Rosado said they would begin a selection process for a designer of the new building, and a fundraising professional to kick off a capital campaign.

“The most important and exciting thing about this long and drawn out process is a new building,” she said, nodding to the extended reviews done by the South End Landmarks for about a year. “We’re looking at selecting a design team and we’d like to have that decision made at the latest in the beginning of 2021.”

There are no designs yet, of course, but Calderon-Rosado said it can be expected to have a product that fits in the neighborhood but is more open and transparent.

“We will have a building that retains the old and brings in the new – that is open and transparent and interactive with both the street and playground,” she said. “That would be the next stage.”

At the same time as they select a design team, they will also select a fundraising professional to tap into donations for the Center.

“We have a development team in house, but this is a much heavier lift,” she said. “We’re going to engage professionals who do that for a living and we have a few good leads. Hopefully by early 2021 we’ll have the design team and the capital campaign in place.”

She said they hope to break ground on the new Arts Center in 2022.

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