Boston defense contractor to artist neighbors: Come at me, Bro

Why has this not been a sitcom already? A husband-and-wife defense contractor moves into a building full of artists, and replaces their theater space with a military production facility. Hijinks -- including a hysterically mean-spirited email exchange -- ensue. 

It's happening right now here in Boston, where the situation has got so tense, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is stepping in to mediate. [UPDATE, 3/14: Defense Contractor To Artists: Our Products Are Art, Too]

Our story takes place at Midway Studios, a mixed living-and-work space for artists in Fort Point that was intended to be an oasis for creative enterprise in the midst of rapid commercial development. The basement of the building was turned into a theater space that has hosted productions by the Actors Shakespeare Project, among others. 

But that mandate didn't stop Boston-based defense contractor Ops-Core -- a husband-and-wife-founded company that, according to its website, manufactures "cutting-edge protective equipment that provides better performance and protection for today's soldier" -- from being able to rent offices on the building's first floor. According to Midway Studios' website, the "dramatic" two-story space is intended for "cultural organizations and arts-related businesses."

But earlier this year -- just around the time Ops-Core was acquired by global defense heavyweight Gentex -- the company rented the Midway's lavish basement theater space, demolished it, and is currently in the process of converting it into an assembly plant. Ops-Core's products, acccording to their website, include something called a "Skull Crusher" ("Provides a stable platform for attaching helmet accessories in environments where a ballistic mounting platform is not needed").

According to the blog Flux Boston and as reported in the Globe, when some Midway residents contacted Ops-Core with concerns about living above a war factory, they received an aggressive letter allegedly from David Rogers, former Ops-Core Chief Executive Officer and new Vice President of Concept Development at Gentex. [I have reached out to Rodgers. He has yet to respond.]

In the midst of artists' complaints about Ops-Core's facility, the Globe reported last week, "the city’s Inspectional Services Department issued a stop work order to Ops-Core on Feb. 24." 

But Ops-Core's letter to the artists has taken on a life of its own. A concerned Midway resident sent us a photo of the letter's second page:

Click to enlarge.

Some highlights [bolded and itallicized words his]:

"The false sense of entitlement of many of our fellow residents astounds me. I have lived in the neighborhood for the past 18 years and am also very familiar with the expectations of some local artists. . .The majority (and some of the most outspoken)"posers" do not create anything whatsoever. They are merely self delluted [sic] bullshitters and drama queens who use art as an excuse to justify and rationalize their pathetic existence [sic] while mooching from others to sustain a living"

"I am happy to meet with any of the people who are spreading runors, false accusations, and lies about Ops-Core and what we intend to do with our space in the building. I challenge them to not be cowards with their backstabbling antics, and instead stand up and confront me to my face."

Tonight, the Boston Redevelopment Authority will provide Midway residents the chance to do just that when it holds a community meeting at Artists for Humanity to address the issue. Stay tuned. [Update: click here to read the follow-up]

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