HSTF head: Kids are going to need more space

David Taber

<bReal Estate Today

JACKSON SQ.—Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) head Claudio Martinez reaffirmed that organization is committed to building a 30,000-square-foot Youth and Family Center in the neighborhood, though construction is still years away.

HSTF, along with partners the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) announced last summer they were putting plans for the new Jackson Square community center on hold because of the unfavorable funding environment.

Instead of trying to conduct a $10 million capital campaign for the new center, the two organizations are undertaking a $5 million capital campaign for improvements to the Cheverus building in Hyde Square. HSTF currently runs most of its programs—including its youth leadership, job training and arts programs—out of that JPNDC-owned building on the campus of the former Blessed Sacrament Church.

Martinez told the Gazette last month that, despite that short-term refocusing on Hyde Square, JPNDC and HSTF are still committed to the Jackson Square community center.

“We have approached every potential investor in Boston over the last few years,” Martinez said. But, he said, especially given the state of the economy, it is going to be hard to raise funds for the new community center until there is hard evidence that development is under way in Jackson.

“Without concrete manifestations, it is a difficult venture,” he said. “Instead, we are focusing on [improving] places we currently control and expand our offerings there.”

The developers hope to be in a position to restart the Youth and Family Center campaign in “three to five years,” Martinez said.

“In the scope of things,” the proposed 30,000-square-foot Youth and Family Center “is the basic minimum investment kids in the neighborhood need,” he said.

There are 12,000 people under the age of 18 in the community around Hyde and Jackson squares, Martinez said. Currently the Hyde Square Task Force is able to serve about 1,000.

“I don’t think [the proposed center] is in any way a large investment. We should be investing more,” he said.

Improvements to the Cheverus could serve as a “demonstration project” to drive that point home to investors, he said.

JSP plans to begin work this year on public infrastructure improvements and on the first proposed residential/retail project in the development plan—for-profit developer Mitchell Properties approximately 100-unit mixed-income rental development on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Centre Street below the Jackson Square T Station.

Non-profit developer Urban Edge is also currently seeking approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority for a 38-unit mixed-income rental development with commercial and community space on the ground floor on the Roxbury side of Columbus Avenue.

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