BPDA Holds Public Meeting on New IBA Community Center at 85 W. Newton St.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a virtual public meeting in November 29 to present the proposal for the new Villa Victoria Center for the Arts at 85 West Newton St. in the South End.

Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), was forced to raze the former Villa Victoria Center for the Arts due to structural issues, and are now looking to construct a purpose-built community arts center.

According to the BPDA, “the site is adjacent to the City of Boston O’Day Park and the proposed project is designed to have a relationship to West Newton Street, the park, and its neighbors.” The building will include a multipurpose room, as well as practice rooms, classrooms, community rooms, and an art exhibition space. It will also feature IBA offices and space for youth programming and resident services.

“Our vision for the center is one that will have one building with all of the consolidated programs of IBA,” said IBA CEO Vanessa Calderon-Rosado. She also said that the goal is for the building to connect to the adjacent playground, as well as “be transparent” in the community.

To date, the project has undergone five staff reviews at the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC), as well as two Advisory Reviews with commissioners. There have been nine community and neighborhood meetings, and seven meetings with the BPDA, according to a slide presented.

Architect Ann Beha of Ann Beha Architects said that the design team blended a contemporary design with the historic qualities of the South End that “speaks to the next generation.”

The proposed building would be about 26,000 gross square feet and would be 62 feet tall with a penthouse and four stories. The zoning limit in the area is 70 feet. Relief will need to be sought for the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), as the limit is 2.0 and the proposed is 2.85.

Natasha Espada of Studio Enée Architects went through the layout of the proposed building, mentioning the “large multipurpose room” as well as the lobby that will be “right off the street.

The second level will feature things like a conference room, community services, and a roof deck. On the lower level, there will be more programs and support. The penthouse will feature the mechanical equipment.

Proposed materials for the building include granite, pewter, terra cotta, and brick.

“The idea of breaking up the heights has been helpful to us,” Beha said, as the proposed building abuts townhouses in the back.

“The idea of the transparency of the building is important to us,” she added. “We want people to be able to see into it.”

There were not many people interested in making comments or asking questions at the meeting, but a few people weighed in.

Rile Rhodes, Business Manager for Local #327 Carpenters Union, wondered who the contractor would be for this project, but Calderon-Rosado said it is still early in the process and no contractor has been selected yet.

Phyllis Barajas said she is a “big fan of IBA and the great work it does on so many levels. I am beyond delighted with the approach you all have taken.” She said that “I love the combo of maintaining commitment to community and at the same time the architectural integrity of the area.”

Other comments were also positive, with Yvette Jarreau writing in the chat that “I like the colors and the integration with the park and street. Patricia Alvarado wrote, “Thank you, Vanessa. Very excited about this project and the benefits it will bring to our community.”

Calderon-Rosado said that construction is expected to start either in the fall of 2022 or “late winter of 2023, depending on how we move ahead with all the permitting and approval process.”

For more information and to leave a comment, visit the BPDA project page at bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/85-west-newton-st. Comments, concerns, and questions can also be emailed to [email protected]. The BPDA comment period ends on December 2.

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