By Beth Treffeisen
An outpouring of support emerged for a new community center for the Tenants Development Corporation (TDC), a non-profit property management and development corporation, to be built at the vacant parking lot at 151 Lenox Street, located on the border of the South End and Lower Roxbury.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a public meeting to garner community feedback on a potential disposition of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) owned vacant parcel of land, on Thursday May 25 at the People’s Baptist Church.
A number of residents at the meeting spoke out against creating luxury apartments and spoke of the need to create a community center for the area.
“There is no reason to add luxury apartments,” said Isaiah DaSilva the peer leader coordinator at the TDC. “Nobody wants to have luxury apartments that they can’t live in. We grew up not knowing what to do, but a community center can help kids figure out where they want to go in the future.”
He continued, “It will create a space with helping the kids that will be running our future.”
The site is a flat paved lot that is about 4,692 square feet. It is situated in the South End Urban Renewal area and is located within the Roxbury neighborhood for zoning for multi-family residential with retail.
According to Courtney Sharpe the senior planner from the BPDA the planning for this site will reflect the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan.
“We want to make sure that your biggest issues will be addressed at this site,” said Sharpe. “We want to collaborate with the community for parcel uses.”
She added that they plan on including diverse socioeconomic groups with different incomes and ages and want to maintain and enhance the nearby-subsidized housing.
The goal of the meeting was to figure out what the Request for Proposal (RFP) guidelines should contain.
The RFP is sent out for about 60 to 90 days for applicants to apply. The BPDA will then review the applications, rank them through the selection process, and then bring the best proposals back to the community for feedback.
This meeting was the first step in getting the process rolling.
A few community members pointed out that this process happened two years ago and went nowhere and they hope that today’s hard work also doesn’t have to happen again in another two years.
“It is just being resurfaced now,” said Reay Pannesi the senior manager for dispositions at the BPDA. “This is a great opportunity to work on something like this.”
The TDC is a property management and development organization located in the South End. It was established in 1968 as a tax-exempt public charitable corporation. Their goal is to increase affordable housing for low to moderate-income individuals and families.
Beyond providing housing, the TDC’s role has grown to include a number of programs, events and services for youth to the elderly in the community.
“We’ve given a lot of thought and have done good planning to expand our services,” said Anita Huggins the asset manager of the TDC. “Especially since the United South End Settlements just ended their senior programming we would like to expand our senior services.”
Huggins said that the TDC already offers a lot to the community including, youth programming, peer leaders, social services and more. Currently they have 346 people in housing, 177 children and 130 seniors in their programs.
She hopes to expand these programs in a larger space to provide cooking classes, computer classes, and a gymnasium for younger residents.
“We want this to be for our residents but also for the abutting neighbors as well,” said Huggins.
Mukiya Baker-Gomez a resident of Lower Roxbury believes the community center will be a good gathering place not only for the youth but also for the elderly where they can learn valuable life style changes.
“I think this community center will provide a unique opportunity to bring different parts of the community together without gentrification,” said Baker-Gomez. “It will also be able to give our next generation a view into governmental work.”
As Julieta Lopez another resident of Lower Roxbury said, “We need to give these kids a chance.”
The comment period on the guidelines for the RFP is open until June 9, 2017.