Our feature story this week tells of the life and times of FAT Village, an eclectic little arts neighborhood tucked into a sliver of downtown Fort Lauderdale. The people who work there are extremely talented, and word of mouth is spreading quickly, especially when it comes to the art walks on the last Saturday evening of every month. But some tenants have packed up and left -- for lower rents, more foot traffic, less crime.
At the end of our article, we saw Travis Webster, owner of the Collide Factory
, wondering whether his novel idea for a collaborative branding outfit would succeed. As the story went to press, we got the answer, and it wasn't a good one.
On April 14, Webster tweeted
, "Friends, I officially closed the doors at Collide Factory FAT Village due to overwhelming complications."
Webster says that those complications came from a dispute between himself and Doug McCraw, the art collector and property investor who owns nearly all of FAT Village.
McCraw says the reason for the eviction was simple. "He never paid his rent," says McCraw, adding, "I wanted to see him make it."
Webster says that the property value has "gone way up" because of the improvements that he and his friends put into the space (polished floor, indoor shipping containers, air conditioning) and that now it "makes sense for the landlord to rent it at a higher rate. He's evicting us.
"The really complicated issue is the divide between what FAT Village is trying to accomplish and what we we're trying to accomplish," says Webster. "I signed a lease that I probably shouldn't have signed."
Webster says that during a recent fundraising art show he held to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake, McCraw's business partner sent him a cease-and-desist email an hour into the event, telling him to shut it down. "They said it wasn't an approved event," says Webster.
McCraw says he's not sure of the details: "I think my business partner did it. We were just really angry. [Webster] never did anything he said he was going to do."
This is all a shame, because the he-said, he-said nature of this detracts from the great stuff that the tenants of FAT Village are trying -- and managing -- to do most of the time. It's something we had to deal with in the feature story: Is this a tale of bickering and false promises or of forward-thinking collaboration?
Webster's problem mirrors a previous eviction. Adam White and Gallery 101, one of the Village's most prominent tenants, moved out in February after being evicted by McCraw over more than $18,000 in unpaid rent. White moved to Galt Ocean Mile, where he set up a new gallery that he said is much more successful. Now the disgruntled former villagers are commiserating.
"I talked to Adam. It seems like there's kind of a story happening," says Webster.
When interviewed for the feature story, McCraw praised Webster and Collide Factory and seemed to see them as the embodiment of his vision for where the village should go. We went so far as to cast Webster as McCraw's younger counterpart: with an idealism and fondness for creativity tempered slightly by business experience.
Of the Collide Factory, McCraw says now, "It was extremely creative. But I have a mortgage payment to pay."
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