Community centers will be staying put for a year

John Ruch

But Curtis Hall closing for fix-up in fall

The city’s controversial plan to pull out of two of Jamaica Plain’s four community centers is on hold for at least a year, the Gazette has learned. That is because one of the centers slated to remain in city hands is in Curtis Hall, which will close down for a year starting this fall for major renovations.

Curtis Hall at 20 South St. is a heavily used city building that houses a community center, hosts neighborhood meetings and serves as a polling place for two high-voting local precincts. It is unclear when exactly the year-long shutdown will start and where all of those services will go.

The $4 million renovation of the century-old building will include a new roof; new heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems; and even new furnishings, according to Sandy Holden of Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF), which provides staff members for the community center.

“It’s really exciting that this is happening because the building is well-used and showing its age,” Holden said in an e-mail to the Gazette.

But it also has changed BCYF’s plans to pull out of the community centers at the Agassiz Elementary and English High Schools and hand the programs over to private organizations—a “transition” that BCYF wanted done by July. That is because Curtis Hall’s programs will have to move somewhere for the year that the building is closed.

Holden wrote that “this project means that our transition plans for the Agassiz and English Community Centers are basically on hold for a year. Both facilities will be hosting various programs and activities for Curtis Hall while it is down.”

BCYF’s pull-out plan includes community centers and other facilities in other neighborhoods. It is controversial and drawing increasing skepticism from local elected officials. The pull-out is going forward as scheduled for those centers outside JP, Holden said, though she added that there is still no list of new organizations to take them over.

In another complication, the English High building also is closing for renovations, though only for this summer. That means the English High Community Center programs will relocate temporarily to the Agassiz and Hennigan community centers, Holden said.

The renovation closures have not been officially announced yet, and were not mentioned as factors in BCYF’s controversial pull-out plan, which was announced in April.

BCYF staffs community centers, but local non-profit councils operate the programs inside them. In JP, that group is the Jamaica Plain Community Centers (JPCC).

JPCC chairperson Kerry Costello has been a critic of BCYF’s pull-out plan, and told the Gazette this week that the Curtis Hall and English High closures only add to the confusion.

“Did anybody think any of this stuff through?” Costello asked.

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