New Kelly Rink skates toward reality


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Visions of farmers’ markets, concerts, elevated tracks and an indoor soccer field were presented to developers of the Jackson Square Recreational Center, the Kelly Rink’s new home, in order to fine-tune exactly what the new rec. center should offer the community.

The non-profit developer Urban Edge, along with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), Hyde Square Task Force and Friends of the Kelly Rink, hosted about 120 people in the Anna Mae Cole Community Center in the Bromley-Heath housing development on Feb. 22 to ask their opinion of what the future rec. center should be.

“Before we get very far, we wanted to think about all aspects of the building,” Mossik Hacobian, former Urban Edge president, told the Gazette last week. Hacobian resigned as president of Urban Edge recently, but is still involved in a consulting capacity, he said.

After Urban Edge shared their current plans for the facility, the developers heard suggestions from community members for indoor basketball courts, a café, an elevated walkway, fitness equipment and more indoor sport space, among others. Developers took notes of the community suggestions for further study and possible implementation.

“This is really starting to come together,” state Rep. Liz Malia told the Gazette after the meeting. “It’s almost an answer to a prayer for a lot of people…This has tremendous potential to be a game-changing resource.”

“They [the plans] are good but they need some adjustments,” said 10-year-old Maurice Malone. He suggested an elevated walkway above the ice rink, so seniors and spectators could watch hockey games and get in some exercise.

According to Urban Edge representative Noah Maslan, 27,000 five- to 18-year-olds live within a mile and half of the rec. center’s proposed location, on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street, across from the Jackson Square T station.

If all continues to go well, the developers will submit their revised plans to the BRA by April, and begin fundraising in June, Hacobian said. The earliest possible groundbreaking would occur in June of 2012, with the facility opening in June 2013.

Current plans
A challenge for developers is to consider other existing and upcoming facilities in the area and coordinate planned resources to prevent redundancies. The new Jackson Square Recreational Center will be a link in a chain of facilities across Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

The series of recreational facilities does or will include the Cheverus Building in the Blessed Sacrament complex on Centre Street, Marcella Park on Ritchie and Marcella Streets, and the Shelburne Community Center and adjoining Cass Facility in Roxbury, which is planned to contain a roller skating rink and a swimming pool.

“What else can you ask for?” Hacobian said.

After gathering ideas from the Jackson Square Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), the nearby residents and residents’ associations, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), youth and recreational organizations, Boston Public Schools and elected officials, planners gathered requests, said Katie Provencher, director of community engagement at Urban Edge.

These previous studies showed that in addition to added recreational opportunities and coordination with other facilities, the community would like the facility to be safe, accessible, affordable, financially sustainable, welcoming and multi-use.

Maslan and Provencher quickly led the Feb. 22 group through the steps the developers are taking to fulfill all these requirements.

Under current planned budgets, the rec. center would just about break even at the end of the year, even after allowing for long-term maintenance savings. This, however, is assuming it can get build without amassing debt.

“We can support operations as long as we don’t have a mortgage,” Hacobian told the Gazette last week.

As a result of a 2008 bill, $5.6 million in bonds have been authorized for use in this project, though “authorization doesn’t mean the money is there to be used,” Hacobian said.

Another $3 million is expected from private developers’ use of tax credits. The facility is expected to cost $13 million to build, Hacobian said, which leaves $5 to $6 million to be raised in private capital.

“The idea is to not borrow money in order to build,” he added. Fundraising efforts would not start before June, Hacobian said.

In an effort to be accessible to all members of the community, the rec. center would allot 39 percent of its useable time to open events. Another 58 percent would be allotted to use by Boston Public Schools and other youth and adult sports leagues. Only 3 percent would by devoted to rentable facility time for things like meetings and parties.

The facility developers plan to keep the facility affordable with low admission and skate rental fees (none over $4) and discounts for families and frequent users.

“The more you use the facility, the less it’ll cost,” Maslan said.

“We want as much affordability and accessibility as possible,” Hacobian said.

The facility is also planned to create jobs for neighborhood residents. After the construction is completed, the facility will need program, administrative, and pro shop staff, along with skate monitors and management.

“[This was a] very successful meeting,” Provencher told the Gazette after the Feb. 22 meeting ended. “Good turnout, good energy and lots of good input.”

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