North End neighbors remember Dorothy Cohen as an artsy and vibrant elder who kept a watchful eye on the 900 block of King Street.
After going into foreclosure and years of falling into disrepair, the house at 999 King St. where Cohen lived will find new life as an affordable space for artists after a group of King Street residents, in partnership with the North End Neighborhood Patrol, successfully launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $11,000 to buy the three-bedroom colonial. The campaign, which closes on Friday, Feb. 14, surpassed its goal on Monday, but the group is still raising money to make necessary repairs such as installing a water heater and furnace, fixing windows, removing old paint, and more.
According to property records, the house went into foreclosure in 2015, the year after Cohen passed away. Most recently, it had been an informal artist residency for Onyx Ashanti, who was kicked out after he left to speak in Germany. He had taken up residence there to “center his artistic practices in the home and by doing so protect it from scrapper, vandals, and other would-be squatters or arsonists,” according to crowdfunding campaign’s webpage. Now that the house has been secured, it can truly be an affordable space for artists, no squatting necessary.
The residents’ purchase of the home comes at a time when North End is undergoing significant changes. “Not only are we coordinating [together] but I think this is part of a larger effort to stand in the face of design that comes out of these market-driven forces, how [resident-led efforts] would shape these places if people aren’t fighting tooth and nail every step of the way,” says Jason Lindy, who lives next door.
Reshounn Foster, who also lives on King Street and is part of the group to buy the house, describes the collaborative effort to buy the house as “DIY community development.” The neighbors are “modeling what it looks for people coming together from different backgrounds and experiences,” she says. “Our street has a legacy, history, vibration, and spirit. Spirit of community is not just a geographical location — it’s ideas and shared skills and gifts. We share them as part of a neighborhood economy.”
The community efforts go beyond 999 King, says block resident Gabrielle Knox. “It’s not even just this house. There are vacant lots between homes turned to gardens where we can garden and eat. There are spaces to grow flowers and plan for rain catchment … [it’s] activation and defining what our space is and being aware to protect it.”