Home for Little Wanderers mulls major redesign

June 13, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

S. HUNTINGTON AVE.—The Home for Little Wanderers is considering razing its building at 161 S. Huntington Ave. and replacing it with a number of smaller buildings—including a school and a youth residence—on the 3.5-acre site.

Home spokesperson Lisa Rowan-Gillis told the Gazette that the project is in the “pre-planning” stage, and the plans may still change.

“We are still in discussion with a number of folks, but we would very much like to see it go forward. Our kids deserve to be in the best surroundings,” she said.

The Home presented what Gillis described as “first thoughts” on the development of “a new childrens’ campus” at the June 2 meeting of the Jamaica Pond Association (JPA).

“We want to do everything right by the neighbors,” Gillis said.

While the JPA did not take an official position on the project board member John Iappini and JPA board president Mark Zanger said they were impressed with Little Wanderers’ presentation.

“They came across as very willing to work with the neighbors,” Iappini told the Gazette.

Both Iappini and Zanger said the board encouraged Little Wanderers to pay attention to the view it presents at the rear of its site, which is visible from the Jamaicaway and the Emerald Necklace.

They also urged the Home to think hard about traffic and parking issues on S. Huntington, the two said.

The project would be subject to zoning review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority because of its size and by the city Parks Commission because of its proximity to the Necklace.

If the project moves forward, it will be completed over the course of three years, with goal of avoiding disruption at the site.

The current building—known as the Knight Children’s Center—houses residential and day-treatment programs for youth ages 5-13 with “serious emotional, behavioral and learning problems,” according to the Home For Little Wanderers web site.

The residential program currently has spaces for 35 youths. A private special-education school is also run on the site.

If the project moves forward, the Home hopes to present plans to the public in September, Rowan-Gillis said.