Last year, a California-based developer IQHQ purchased the property, which sits adjacent to New Balance’s massive Boston Landing complex, with plans to demolish the building and construct a nearly 410,000 square foot life sciences campus comprised of three buildings and of an underground garage. IQHQ filed plans for the project with the Boston Planning & Development Agency in September, and they are currently being reviewed by the city.
Sound Museum founder William Desmond initially feared his business would be overlooked – developers had pushed his recording studio out of previous homes before it moved to North Beacon Street. And he knew friends from the city’s arts community who have suffered the same fate in recent years.
“With development all over the city, it’s tough for artists and musicians in Boston,” Desmond said. “We have to be worried. And people count on me, musicians count on me for a place to store their gear and a place to play and feel at home.
As the project progressed through city review, several musicians and neighborhood residents pushed back on the plans, in part due to the loss of the Sound Museum and its affordable practice spaces on which many artists matter for years.
But in September 2021, IQHQ approached Desmond with an offer to help the Sound Museum build what it calls a “state-of-the-art rehearsal and recording facility,” according to a recent press release announcing the collaboration. The company hired a commercial leasing broker and an architect to help Desmond find and design a new location – which Desmond called a “huge relief”.
“From my past experiences, no one ever cared about me,” he said. “I’ve been doing this job for 40 years in Boston. There were various buildings along the way, and no one was ever so worried as [IQHQ] relate to my business.
Until a new location is found, the Sound Museum will remain on North Beacon Street. IQHQ and the Sound Museum are in touch almost daily about the project, said Katherine Desmond, vice president of the Sound Museum’s parent company and wife of William Desmond.
“They understand that it’s not just them buying a building, tearing it down and building a new project,” she said. “They understand that in order to do this, they have to be willing to work with the community, the musicians and our company to make things work out for all of us.”
This former industrial part of Brighton and neighboring Allston has long been home to a vibrant slice of the city’s music community, and the decision to help the Sound Museum relocate was influenced by the importance of the rehearsal studio to it, said David Surette, senior vice president of IQHQ.
“[The Sound Museum] is the fabric of the region, it has always been known to musicians,” Surette said. “We always say when we go to these places that we want to be good neighbours, we want to be known for thoughtful development.”
The IQHQ team is currently scouting various locations in Boston. Even with help from the developer, the move will be difficult – the Sound Museum prides itself on providing rehearsal space at low prices, and prices in the neighborhood have “exploded” over the years, said William Desmond. The type of large-scale light industrial space that the Sound Museum currently occupies is also in high demand by life science companies and delivery warehouses.
However, the town hall is following the project closely. Last month, ward elected officials and several other councilors sent a letter to the BPDA saying they would need to see IQHQ’s firm commitment to relocating the studio before they could back the plan.
William Desmond also has certain requirements for the new facility: in addition to affordability, he wants the new sound museum to be located in the city of Boston and comparable in size to the current 40,000 square foot space that the complex rehearsal house occupies at 155 North Beacon St. The Sound Museum will pay its own rent once it is relocated, he added.
The silver lining to leave the space the Sound Museum has occupied for more than 30 years is the modern facility that IQHQ promised to build, complete with rehearsal space, a performance area and two new recording studios, has said William Desmond.
“If we could stay where we are forever, that would be wonderful, but it’s not going to happen,” he said. “So this is the best case scenario for me, my small business and my musicians who have been with me for so many years.”
Annie Probert can be reached at [email protected]