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Helmet fabricator to leave artist enclave

Residents cited fumes from helmet-maker

A helmet-making company has agreed to move its operation from Midway Studios to another location in Boston, a decision that drew applause Wednesday night at a meeting with dozens of the artists who live and work in the Fort Point building.

Ops-Core will have 45 days to do assembly work, but no painting, in its space at 15 Channel Center, with city inspectors promising to keep a close watch. City officials said they expect a deal to be finalized shortly between Ops-Core and the owners of the new property that the company plans to rent.

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“This is a good way of getting some of these folks back to work in the interim period without any impact to the residents,’’ said Bryan Glascock, acting commissioner of the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

Complaints surfaced in February from residents concerned about fumes coming from the building’s downstairs space, where Ops-Core operates.

Glascock and Kairos Shen, chief planner for the Boston Development Authority, have said they do not think Ops-Core poses a health risk to residents. But Shen realized that, after the emotional three-hour public meeting last week, the Midway residents’ opposition to Ops-Core was so strong that the company would probably have difficulty working there.

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In addressing the residents Wednesday night, Shen praised Ops-Core and the building owners, Keen Development Co.

“I just want to underscore how cooperative they have been with us,’’ said Shen. “We’re not nearly as powerful as you think we are.’’

Now attention turns to the portion of the Midway building in which Ops-Core had planned to expand its assembly shop. The city and property developer intended the spot to be rented out as a theater when Midway Studios opened in 2005, with a special mission to house artists. But it has been difficult to find an arts group to pay what building owners say they need.

Keen said the almost $300,000 a year that Ops-Core had agreed to pay for the area would have done that.

Wednesday night, Shen said the BRA planned to form a committee to examine how to make the theater work financially. He urged residents, some of whom might serve on the committee, to have an open mind and suggested that the theater could be reconfigured to earn revenue while also serving as a cultural space.

The BRA did not learn about Ops-Core’s plans for expansion until recently. The plans came to light after complaints from Midway residents, particularly after many had to leave their studios in February when a contractor treated floors with polyurethane without properly venting the space. Tensions heightened when David Rogers, Ops-Core’s founder, blasted many of the artists in a hastily written e-mail that spread through the building.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Rogers’s wife, Viktoria, read a statement on behalf of her husband, who was out of town on business. In it, he apologized for his e-mailed words “made of frustration.’’

The Midway residents applauded her words. Still, as the statement noted, Ops-Core does not consider its move a done deal. The statement called for the city to help finalize the new location and for Keen Development to release the company from its Midway lease. When asked at the meeting if Keen would do that, the development company’s president, Daniel Taylor, declined to comment.

“This is a very constructive first step,’’ said resident Raber Umphenour. “There’s a lot of work left to be done. But the city and developers are moving in the right direction.’’

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com.
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