JP Centre/South Main Streets celebrates 20 years with in-person annual meeting

JP Centre/South Main Streets held its annual meeting in-person at the First Church in Jamaica Plain on March 23. The event also marked the 20th anniversary of the organization, and neighbors and supporters came out to enjoy local food, beer, and each other’s company. The keynote speaker was Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion for the City of Boston. 

After a Year in Review video was shown, Ginger Brown, Executive Director of JP Centre/South Main Streets, treasurer Craig Panzer, and board member Michael Epp spoke about the organizations’s three working teams, which include the Racial Equity and Justice Team, the Economic Vitality Team, and the Design Team. 

Panzer said that the Racial Equity and Justice Team has held a workshop series and spoken with business owners in the district. This year, the team will feature an “Uplift JP” series, where it celebrates BIPOC businesses. The celebration began on March 19 with Cada DIa Mini Cafe.

Brown said that the Economic Vitality Team has done a number of things, including beginning a study of employee benefits that “small business owners are able to offer, want to offer, and currently offer,” she said. Additionally, Brown said the team is looking at all vacancies in the district and trying to fill them, and will also be hosting an entrepreneurial education event about questions surrounding starting a small business. 

Epp spoke about storefronts in the district, calling out The Village Works for going above and beyond with restoring the facade of the non-historic building. He also said more storefronts are to come. 

Featured speaker Segun Idowu spoke a little bit about his office and how it works to assist Bostonians. Formerly known as the Office of Economic Development, Segun said that the name of the office was changed because he and Mayor Michelle Wu felt that it was “important [that residents] understand who it is and what we’re doing it for.” He also said that the goal is to ensure equitable access to opportunities across the entire city. 

Idowu said that this is “one of the largest cabinets in the city,” with nearly 100 full-time employees. Under its umbrella, the office includes the Licensing Board, Small Business Development, Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment, Supplier Diversity, Cannabis Equity, and Business Strategy, as well as resources for businesses as they continue to navigate the pandemic. 

Idowu also explained that there are “four buckets that everything we’re doing this year will fall into.” Those include: COVID recovery, shifting city investments, prosperity for all, and neighborhood revitalization. 

Idowu said these four buckets will help the office with things like “working to ensure we’r laying the proper infrastructure,” as well as awarding contracts to small businesses run by women, people of color, and veterans. They will also “help with economic competitiveness,” he said, and providing resources to main streets across the city, creating equitable access. 

After Idowu Spoke, the meeting shifted to celebrating three anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of JP Centre/South Main Streets, the 100th anniversary of George’s Shoes, and the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of the Emerald Necklace parks.

Four founding JP Centre/South board members attended the meeting after being invited, and Brown said that George’s Shoes is looking forward to a larger celebration this summer. The shoe store has received a technology grant from the Boston Main Streets Foundation to update its POS system, as well as a small business relief fund grant to renovate the inside of the store and create handicap accessibility. 

Jen Mergel, Director of Experience and Cultural Partnerships for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, briefly spoke about the Olmsted Now celebration which will include events around the city related to open space and connectivity.

“We want to center this work really in equity,” Mergel said, and there will be public dialogues and other types of events for people to attend. April 26 marks Olmsted’s 200th birthday, and there will be a celebration at the JP Boathouse on that date from 6:30-7:30pm.

Parks as Platform is another initiative as part of the celebration. An event is planned at Jamaica Pond on August 20 in conjunction with JP Porchfest, and on September 24, there will be a picnic that includes the full Emerald Necklace. 

Finally, JP Centre/South Main Streets re-elected board member Paul Stamatos and elected new board member Nicole Gunn, owner of Cada DIa Mini Cafe.

Some upcoming events in the district include:

1. Uplift JP – Sat, April 16, 2022, 12:00-2:00 PM at Nckls & Dimes, 668 Centre St

2. JP Centre/South Main Streets Monthly Board Meeting – Wed, April 27, 2022, 5:00-6:00 PM via Zoom

3. JP Centre/South Spring Fundraiser – SAVE THE DATE! Tuesday, May 24, 2022

• Taste and Tour – A Walk in the Neighborhood; a Guided FOOD Tour of Jamaica Plain with drinks and history highlights!

4. Entrepreneurial Education Fair – Thursday, June 9, 2022, 7:00-9:00 PM

• Everything You Wanted to Know about Starting a Business (But Were Afraid to Ask)

To be added to the JP Centre/South Main Streets newsletter, text JPCSMS to 22828.

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