STUDIO ENÉE, Annum Architects, and IBA’s design for La CASA is Boston’s new home for Latinx art and community empowerment

Arts, Self-Determination, and Activism

STUDIO ENÉE, Annum Architects, and IBA’s design for La CASA is Boston’s new home for Latinx art and community empowerment

The building will be sited at 85 West Newton Street. (Courtesy MassDevelopment)

Back in the day, locals called parts of Boston’s South End “New York Streets” because its tenements resembled those in the Lower East Side. Like its New York counterpart, the South End was once home to a thriving arts community—a place where Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald performed, and Louis B. Mayer and community leader Mel King grew up.

But in the 1960s, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) demolished the New York Streets. Despite stiff community opposition, the BRA evicted 1,730 families and 1,820 single-person households in the neighborhood, many of which were Black or Latinx. Today, the South End is still home to one of the largest Black and Latinx communities in New England, as gentrification threatens the neighborhood’s diversity.

Now, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), STUDIO ENÉE, Annum Architects (formerly Ann Beha Architects) are collaborating on La CASA: The Center for Arts, Self-Determination, and Activism, a central hub to exhibit and harbor Latinx art and community efforts in Boston. The local groups are working with MassDevelopment, a finance agency, to bring La CASA to life at 85 West Newton Street, presently a vacant lot.

courtyard and La CASA building
La CASA will provide 26,000-square-feet of space for community meetings and the arts. (Courtesy IBA)

Renderings show a veil of terra-cotta on the building’s upper facade that complements the South End’s historic brick buildings. The lower half of the facade uses curtain walls to invite the public inside. A roof deck sits atop the structure for large community meetings and a shared kitchen.

In total, the project will cost $33 million. This week, MassDevelopment issued a $12,080,000 tax-exempt bond on behalf of IBA to make the project happen. The remaining sum of money needed for construction will come from other sources including The Community Builders, and New Markets Tax Credits.

interior view of function hall with tables
In a function hall at La CASA a wall with generous glazing opens out to a courtyard. (Courtesy IBA)
performance hall
In addition to exhibition and event venues La CASA will also house a flexible, performance space. (Courtesy IBA)

With that bond, IBA, STUDIO ENÉE, and Annum Architects will deliver a new four-story, 26,500-square-foot multipurpose community space and arts center. The bond will be used to buy and install furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, MassDevelopment said in a statement.

The IBA was established in 1968 in response to urban renewal, and the displacement of low-income families wrought by the BRA. Today, the IBA has 667 housing units in its portfolio; it also provides early education, youth development, financial empowerment, residents services and arts programs for over 5,000 people in Greater Boston.