JP Observer: Long-needed rec facility could be built here with more funding

September 23, 2016
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A fabulous Jackson Square Recreation Center (JSRC), a dream of the community for years, could actually come true. The plan for the facility on Columbus Avenue on the Jamaica Plain/Roxbury border is the result of an incredible amount of cooperation among a variety of individuals and organizations for more than 18 years.

According to staff of Urban Edge, the nonprofit developer of the center that would be located near its office, continued collaborations are necessary to make JSRC a reality.

The proposed two-story, 50,000-square-foot, year-round recreation center will include a regulation-sized ice rink on the first floor and an indoor turf field on the second. It will also house 5,000 square feet of academic and social support programming.

Living within 1.5 miles of the site are 26,000 youths ages 4 to 18. Research shows only 10 percent of them have access to after-school and recreational activities now.

Thousands of young people skate at the “temporary,” outdoor, weather-dependent Kelly Rink on Marbury Terrace nearby every winter. Friends of Kelly Rink, in cooperation with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, have overseen operation of a “temporary” rink since 1999 after a permanent rink was torn down on the Jamaicaway in 1997.

Urban Edge, which is working with the Friends group on the rec center, is a member of a team redeveloping Jackson Square. The developers—which are creating lots of affordable housing, retail, community and green space—also include Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), Hyde Square Task Force, and The Community Builders.

Their efforts follow a Boston Redevelopment Authority community planning process that started in 1999 to determine uses for vacant land that had been bulldozed for an extension of I-95 that the community eventually fought off. More than 800 people and 30 organizations took part in more than 80 meetings. The resulting “vision” for Jackson Square was published 15 years ago. Among other developments, it called for a facility similar to the proposed JSRC.

Total cost of building the center is projected to be $21.5 million; a little less than $10 million still needs to be raised. In order to qualify for $5.69 million in state funds, the remaining money needs to be pledged by June 2017.

Urban Edge staff is talking to foundations and “institutional partners that might use it not during community time,” Urban Edge Chief Executive Officer Frank Shea said in an interview on Sept. 14. The idea is that institutions could make a financial commitment in order to have a “guaranteed role.”

At one time the plan called for a one-story facility, Deputy Director Katie Provencher said in the interview. That would have cost $16 million.

Funding has been obtained from various sources, most recently $500,000 from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. A CrowdRise campaign in July netted almost $28,000 from about 200 people and groups, many local.

The JSRC Campaign Committee has an impressive list of members, including Honorary Committee Chair Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Olympic gold medalist Mike Eruzione and former Boston Bruin Graeme Townshend are on the capital committee.

Next spring people may be asked to put out lawn signs and otherwise show support for the JSCR Campaign. Meanwhile, more offers of important financial and other support for this wonderful development are welcome and encouraged.

[Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.]

 

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