Report: People want a rink, indoor turf

August 13, 2010
By

David Taber

JSP meets and beats jobs policy numbers

JACKSON SQ.—If non-profit developer Urban Edge does not move forward with its plans to build a permanent home for the Kelly Rink in Jackson Square, it will not be for lack of local demand.

A recently completed Urban Edge-commissioned analysis, presented by the developer at the Aug. 4 meeting of the Jackson Square Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), indicates there is plenty of desire for an ice-rink.

The report also indicates that there is local interest in an indoor “turf” field for sports like soccer and lacrosse. Urban Edge staffer Noah Maslan said the developer would examine the feasibility of a multi-use turf and ice sports facility.

Meanwhile, as the first phase of public infrastructure work for a major, multi-developer effort to revitalize Jackson Square moves forward, Urban Edge and the other non- and for-profits involved in the project are also trying to meet a local desire for work.

JSP contractors are beating the requirements for local and minority hiring laid out in the City of Boston’s Jobs Policy, Andrew Winter, real estate director for JSP member the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) said at the meeting.

Information Winter presented at the meeting indicated that no women were working at the Jackson Square worksites, but in an e-mail to the Gazette, he said the information he presented had been incorrect, and that a JP woman had been employed by general contractor the J. Derenzo Company since early July. “…[S]he has actually worked 112 hours during the last three weeks of July.” Winter said. Because of the low number of hours being worked overall, that means just over 15 percent of the hours worked in July were by women, beating the City mandate of 10 percent.

JSP’s goal for the overall project, which is likely to take years, is to meet or beat the policy requirements in all categories, he said.

JSP also includes non-profit community organization The Hyde Square Task Force and for-profit developer Mitchell properties. The developers are coordinating separate commercial, residential and community-space development projects on 11 acres of land throughout the square.

Ice Rink

According to the results of the Urban Edge-commissioned “demand analysis” the rink would serve a well-established local and citywide desire.

The analysis—by the Ice Management Group (IMG)—also found that demand is high for an indoor synthetic turf field, suitable for things like indoor soccer and lacrosse.

IMG has, in its 17-year history, “recommended against proceeding” with new rinks about 80 percent of the time, the introduction to the study says.

“There is real demand for indoor rinks and turf fields,” Noah Maslan of Urban Edge said at the meeting.

Urban Edge has proposed citing the new Kelly Rink on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street. It would replace a “temporary” open-air site on the Southwest Corridor near the Stony Brook T Station since its former home on the Jamaicaway was torn down in the 1990s.

The industry standard for ice rink “capture rates” is five percent of the population in a 10-mile radius, the study says. There are 26,500 youths within a 1.5-mile radius of Jackson Square, so the rink can expect about 1,350 regular patrons. The current open-air Kelly Rink on the Southwest Corridor near the Stony Brook sees about 10,300 uses each season.

That usage—which comes despite the outdoor rink only being open during winter months, and being closed when the weather is too warm—is the result of a lack of ice rinks in the area and the rink’s location adjacent to the Orange Line, which makes it accessible to patrons throughout the city, Maslan said.

The feasibility study also describes a disparity in recreational resources for urban and suburban youths, citing an array of studies, including a 1998 “Urban Sports Youth Needs Assessment Survey” conducted by Northeastern University that found 15 percent of urban children participate in organized sports…compared to 85 to 90 percent who play in the suburbs.”

Quoting another study—“Youth Sports in America: an Overview,” conducted by the University of Michigan, the IMG survey related that, “Youth sports participation is a practical substitute for gang membership.”

The full text of the study is available at www.UrbanEdge.org.

A second “economic feasibility” study for the project will be completed by IMG in a few months, Maslan said.

“The goal [of the economic feasibility study] is to understand what the price points are. It would have to be affordable and sustainable over time,” he said. “The goal is to have a facility that does not rely on fundraising” so programming is not dependent on the availability of resources, Maslan said.

As the Gazette previously reported, Urban Edge officials have said they hope to find that the new Kelly Rink can be run—and admission fees for local residents can be subsidized—largely on the proceeds from renting the space for programmed activities. That plan depends on Urban Edge finding a way to build the rink that does not require it to take on too much debt, Urban Edge president Mossik Hacobian previously said.

Maslan responded to most of the questions from the CAC members about the rink at the Aug. 4 meeting by saying they would be answered in the feasibility study. Those questions included:

  • Whether the new Kelly would be as popular as the current rink—which is free to the public, with a one dollar charge for skate rentals—if there is even a nominal fee.
  • Concerns about the practicality of switching back and forth between the turf field and the ice rink, since both surfaces would likely be popular in colder months.
  • “It is not going to be like the TD BankNorth Garden,” the North End Stadium where the Boston Celtics basketball and Boston Bruins hockey teams play. “It is not going to be 100 people moving huge panels,” Maslan said. He said the study would take a close look at operating costs for the potential multi-use facility.
  • Requests for information about the relative popularity of turf and ice facilities.

“We have to determine when there is the highest demand for certain programming,” Maslan said.
Jobs policy

JSP has so far been successful at meeting its goals for employing minority, local, and female workers at its construction sites in Jackson Square, Winter told the Gazette.

The public infrastructure work currently underway is not particularly labor-intensive. Contractors have generally put in under 200 hours of work a week—the equivalent of 40-hour work-weeks for fewer than five people. But 60 percent of those hours have been gone to minority workers, 55 percent to local-area residents in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, and 15 percent have gone to women, according to updated number Winter provided the Gazette this week

That means JSP is beating Boston Jobs Policy work-force goals of 50 percent local residents, 25 percent minority workers and 10 percent female workers. JSP has committed to meet those goals, and for 40 percent of the construction work be conducted by local residents.

Striving to meet those goals early in the Jackson Square redevelopment process “sets a precedent” for more labor-intensive future development in the square, Winter said at the meeting.

Developers have been meeting regularly with representatives from general contractor J. Derenzo Company to discuss work-hours rates, Winter said. Setting up a regular forum for those conversations early means that JSP will be in a better position to achieve its hiring goals as larger construction projects move forward in the area, he said. “We are setting a precedent,” Winter said.

Through its economic and workforce development program, the JPNDC has been helping construction connect job-seekers get into apprentice programs and navigate complex union rules to get hired, JPNDC executive director Richard Thal told the Gazette in a phone interview.

Future contracts for work in Jackson Square could include “incentive and penalty language” to encourage contractors to meet JSP’s goals, he said.

“We are pleased that we are learning lots of things about how to do this well,” Thal said.

“It’s good to have goals, and its good to beat them,” CAC member Rodney Singleton said at the meeting.

The jobs policy information provided by JSP at the meeting only included total weekly number of hours billed by the three contractors on the job and the number of hours worked by the various identified groups. CAC members asked that JSP in the future include information about how many people from each group worked every week.

“If 60 hours went to minority workers, that could be six people working 10 hours each, or visa versa,” CAC member David Worrell said at the meeting.

JPNDC’s recent projects—including three residential development efforts at the former Blessed Sacrament Church campus in Hyde Square, and a mixed-use residential and retail development at 270 Centre St. in Jackson Square—have mostly exceeded city jobs policy goals for minority an local hires. The numbers for those workers at those sites have ranged between 40 percent and 70 percent, Thal said.

The work site at 270 Centre St. was picketed last month by the Bricklayers and Affiliated Craftsmen Local 3, but that picket was directed against the contractor and had little to do with JPNDC, union and JPNDC officials said.

Meeting the relatively modest goal of 10 percent women remains a problem, he said. “Typically the percentage is 5 percent or less,” he said. “We are trying to push the general contractors.”

Other JSP news

Urban Edge is going before the city zoning Board of Appeal Aug. 27 to seek a variance for height and a conditional use permit to build Jackson Commons, a mixed-use mixed-income residential rental building with community and commercial space, on Columbus Avenue. The building would essentially be a large addition to the Urban Edge-owned Webb Building at 1542 Columbus, which would continue to house the non-profit community development corporation’s offices. [See JP Agenda.]

Even if it is approved, the groundbreaking for that project is still dependent on Urban Edge’s successful application to city and state funding sources, Maslan said at the meeting.

In a phone interview, he told the Gazette Urban Edge hopes to begin work in the Spring or Summer of 2011, depending on when state funding comes through.

Bart Mitchell, principal of Mitchell properties, did not offer an update on when ground will be broken on his planned 103-unit residential rental building with ground-floor retail at the corner of Columbus and Centre Streets on the Jackson Square T Station side. Previously Mitchell said he hoped to begin work this year, but the last time he spoke to the Gazette about the project, last spring, he said he was still working to finalize funding.

Mitchell was not available to comment for this story.

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