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Discovering Uphams Corner & the Strand Theatre in 2013

Strand Theatre, Uphams Corner
The Strand Theatre, Long Serving

The Strand Theatre in Uphams Corner opened as a movie and vaudeville palace. On November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending World War I, and that night the Strand Theater held its grand first-night celebration.

Vaudeville was the Strand’s entertainment format until "talkies" were introduced in the ‘30’s.  For more than thirty years following, until 1969 when the theater closed due to declining ticket sales, the Strand served as a first-run movie theater.


Recent Community History

Since 1969, the story of the Strand has been a struggle - funding major repairs and building system upgrades, how to attract and schedule programming, balancing events that portray the Strand as a performing arts center and those that support community activities.

The reputation of the surrounding Uphams Corner community made "selling" the Strand as a viable performance venue difficult.  Uphams Corner was known to be unsafe (dangerous), and parking was difficult and distant. In a 12-month period, for example, from 2011 into 2012, Uphams Corner was the site of seven murders, a horrific statistic for a landmass of 0.33 square miles. Even without the crime, little else in the community served as points of attraction, not retail, restaurants, parks or museums.

Today's Uphams Corner appears much the same though crime is way down (zero murders in the last 12 months).  The business district still boasts historic buildings, the Dorchester North Burying Ground and, of course, the Strand.  A few name establishments distinguish the business district:  the Uphams Corner post office, CVS, Footlocker and Walgreens. Recently, a new Dominican restaurant, Paraiso, opened, upping the number of worthwhile restaurants from one (Restaurant Laura) to two.


Steps Toward Revitalization

Slowly but steadily, the last five years at the Strand have witnessed important change. The City of Boston has put over $6 million into the Strand for repairs and upgrades. Improved relations with the arts community have led to a doubling of the days active - 76 in 2010, 146 in 2011 and the number in 2012 expected to be greater still.

On November 11, 2011, the Strand Theatre celebrated its 93rd birthday with a wonderful community celebration including a classy hand decorated cake, itself a work of art, created by the Strand's manager, Ms. Melodi Greene.


Strand Theatre 93rd Birthday Strand 93rd Birthday


In late 2011, Barbara Lewis of the Trotter Institute approached the Main Street organization regarding her vision of revitalizing the Strand. Initial meetings quickly refocused from the Strand "only" to the community itself - arts as an expression of the people who live there.

Xavier Torres from The Boston Foundation attended meetings and the artistic ball of change began to roll while the backdrop, known to all parties, was put in place - the Fairmount Indigo planning process scheduled to look in depth at Uphams Corner. 


Arts Investment in the Community

ArtPlace is a partnership of various foundations, federal agencies and banks that awards grants to specific organizations and communities to support art and culture.

The Boston Foundation coordinated a one-year grant from ArtPlace for $480,000 awarded in June 2012 to culturally enrich Uphams Corner, hopefully stimulating an appetite for the arts.  While it will include programming at the Strand, the funding is intended to act as a catalyst for community change.

The Fairmount Indigo planning initiative held its first Uphams Corner meeting in August 2012.  Six themes were identified for the entire 9.2 mile stretch of the new Indigo line including housing, economic revitalization, quality of life and more.  The physical area included in detail planning for Uphams Corner includes a 1/2 mile radius on either side of the Fairmount line.  Much of the Uphams Corner business district falls within those boundaries including the Strand.

At a Fairmount meeting in 2012, the City of Boston announced a $3 million Infrastructure Improvements Project for the one-block section of Columbia Road from Hancock Street to Dudley Street.  The project will be targeting improved sidewalks, better lighting, additional crosswalks, signal timing, streetscape aesthetics and signage.  Establishing a visitor oriented pathway from the Strand to free city parking is also one of the project goals.  Enhancing the Strand Theatre visitor's experience is consistent with the Mayor's commitment to the Strand as well as a necessary step towards effecting an environment that is supportive of the arts.


Discovering Uphams Corner and the Strand

Uphams Corner is changing and is undergoing a revitalization.
  • The Strand Theatre is hosting excellent performances, many of them free.
  • The community is much safer than it used to be.
  • The two quality restaurants are worth the visit.
Soon to sport a new appearance, Uphams Corner will look and feel new to the residents and visitors alike. 

The "buzz" will spread and Uphams Corner will start to take on the mantle of an arts destination because the community says: “It shall be so.” Indeed, saying it is so goes a long way toward creating a shared vision that manifests reality.
 

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Posted: January 24, 2013     Nancy J Conrad
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