By Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Special to the Gazette
One of the best things about Roslindale is how familiar it feels when you’re walking through Roslindale Village or driving down Washington Street. I don’t need to tell you that generations of families call this neighborhood home. Children play ball at Fallon Field, where their fathers and mothers played as kids. And don’t get me started on the great family shops and restaurants.
But what you may not know is that one of the major changes we made in Roslindale has since become a model of revitalization for 20 other neighborhoods all around Boston and other cities across the country.
In 1983, as a city councilor, I brought the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Streets program to Roslindale. By 1995, as mayor, the success of Roslindale Village Main Streets moved me to take this program citywide. Today, the model that started in Roslindale has led to the creation of almost 1,000 new or expanded businesses and created more than 6,000 jobs in the city.
What’s more, the average rate of storefront occupancy in a Boston Main Street district is 95 percent. The concept worked so well that Boston Main Streets became a national model for urban revitalization. Cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle and Washington have adopted this creative approach. The program has reduced vacant storefronts, created jobs, and revitalized neighborhoods. And it all began in Roslindale.
Almost 30 years later, Roslindale Village has become a food destination for people around the city and around the region. Roslindale Village features more than a dozen ethnic grocers, bakeries, and small family restaurants tucked away all over the place.
More than 3,000 people flock here for the booming, open-air Roslindale Village Main Street Farmers’ Market on Saturdays in Adams Park, which starts up again next month. Last year, neighborhood residents Odessa Piper, Holly St. Clair and Eric Lewandowski helped produce a recipe card set called “Fresh in the Village,” which drew from 12 independently-owned specialty food stores in Roslindale Village. The set raised more than $1,500 for the farmers’ market and the Charles Sumner Elementary School. That’s just one of many examples of residents pitching into help their neighbors in this community.
There are a couple of other changes going on in the neighborhood that I think you will enjoy. The BCYF Flaherty Pool will close this fall, and when it reopens next year, it will have undergone a $5.6 million innovative renovation that will bring the outside in with sliding doors and skylights that will enhance use during warmer months. We also have two new computer labs, one at the Boston Centers for Youth & Families Archdale Community Center and one coming soon to the newly renovated BCYF Roslindale Community Center.
One thing that never changes in Roslindale is the good work of Sister Nancy Braceland at Casserly House. I can never thank Sister Nancy enough for the work she does with her before/after-school program and neighborhood crime watch, and most recently helping to coordinate neighborhood efforts with Boston Shines.
I also want to discuss a very important initiative we have ongoing. We are working hard to create a radically different student assignment plan—one that puts a priority on children attending schools closer to their homes. So far more than 700 people have joined us in 20 community meetings. Hundreds more have filled out surveys online. I want you to make sure Roslindale’s voice is heard throughout this process. Visit bostonpublicschools.org/choice to get involved today.
Thank you for all that you do to make the neighborhood and the city of Boston better every day. I hope to see you at one of the village’s Summer Strolls, Thursday evenings from July 12 to Aug. 2, or the Summer Concert Series in Adams Park on Thursday evenings from July 12 to Aug. 9. And stop by my Roslindale Coffee Hour on Fri., May 18, 9 to 10 a.m. at Fallon Field.