The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 13, 2007


School offers Highland artists new lease for one year

When the Emerson Umbrella lease of the Highland Building expires in September, the Carlisle School will offer a new one-year lease to the group. The school is planning some changes in the lease process, and a one-year term will give the town and school more time to prepare, and to discuss the future use and maintenance of the building, according to school Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman. Emerson Umbrella, an artist cooperative based in Concord, currently holds a three-year lease with the school and uses Highland for artist studios.

Zimmerman and Buildings and Grounds Supervisor David Flannery met recently with Carrie Flood, managing director of the artists' co-op, to go over maintenance of the building, part of its lease agreement with the school. Emerson Umbrella has agreed to repair the front stair floorboards, stringers and railings to return them to a safe and useable condition, according to Flood. The work is expected to be done by late this summer. By next year, when the one-year lease expires, the school will be ready to implement a Request for Proposal process to comply with public-bidding laws for a municipal-owned property. The open RFP process will allow other groups to bid on a lease to use the building. In 2004 Emerson Umbrella successfully bid in a similar process for a ten-year lease with the town of Concord for its main artists' studios in an old school building on Stow Street in Concord.

Flood said the co-op will work with the Carlisle School in the year ahead to prepare for the RFP. She said a potential 10-year lease will allow the group to make some of the more expensive repairs the building needs and put together a capital plan to raise some private funds to maintain Highland.

Artists in the Concord building pay a yearly surcharge, called a capital improvement assessment, to cover building maintenance. According to Flood, artists who use Carlisle's Highland Building are not charged for maintenance because their current three-year lease agreement does not allowenough time to pay for substantial repairs.

Twelve artists have studios in Highland, about half of whom live in Carlisle. Each of the four main classrooms is divided into two studio spaces, with more studios in the basement of the building. Highland artists pay the Umbrella a monthly rent. For a large studio, rents average between $600 and $700 a month, split between the artists sharing a studio. While rents pay for expenses at the building such as electricity and heat, they do not generate much excess to pay for building repairs.

After the school stopped using the 100-year-old building on School Street for classrooms in the late 1980s, the Umbrella signed a ten-year lease with the school from 1994 to 2004. The current three-year lease, from 2004 to 2007 specifies the group must "keep said premises in good order and repair, and in at least as good condition as they are in at the commencement of said term."

The Carlisle School Committee has leased the building to the Umbrella since 1994 for $1 a year, asking in return in the lease that the group pay for heating, electricity, and insurance bills, and for building maintenance and upkeep.

This summer the school asked the group to get estimates to repair the concrete porch foundation pillars, the roof on the front porch, and a space between the chimney and main roof where flashing has separated and caused some leaking. While the Umbrella will get estimates, the co-op does not plan to carry out these repairs during the proposed one-year lease, said Flood.

Once Emerson Umbrella has a report on all required repairs with estimates, Zimmerman said the school will meet again with the group to discuss the terms of the one-year lease. The School Committee will vote on the Highland lease in early September.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito