BFSNA Gets Update on Proposed IBA Redevelopment Project

The Blackstone/Franklin Square Neighborhood Association was given an update on the status of IBA’s proposed redevelopment project during its virtual meeting on May 18.

Dr. Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, CEO of IBA (Inqui-linos Boricuas en Acción), the Boston nonprofit that purchased the one-time German church at 85 West New-ton St. in the ‘80s and converted it into the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, told those online for the meeting that they had selected Anne Beta Architects and STU-DIO ENÉE as the architects for the project.

The new facility, said Dr. Calderón-Rosado, would occupy no more than 30,000 gross square feet and tenta-tively be five stories high (although, she said, that re-mains uncertain), with a performing arts center on the first two levels, and office and conference rooms for IBE staff and gallery space on the floors above it.

“The main activity of this building would be arts and cultural space and a multicultural space housing a performing arts space with some type of platform for per-formances to be held within the bigger space,” Dr. Calderón-Rosado said.

Construction is expected to get underway next summer, she said, with “something open and to celebrate by the end of 2024.”

IBA is also in the process of “selecting a campaign consultant to raise money to get the building going,” Dr. Calderón-Rosado added.

Fundraising for the project is expected to take two or three years, or just about as long as it will take for con-struction of the building, she said, although the estimat-ed cost of the project wouldn’t be known until its design is finalized.

(Dr. Calderón-Rosado said she hoped to return to the community with some “design sketches” in the late summer or early fall, and that permitting process for the project would likely commence around the same time.)

IBA has a virtual meeting on this project, she said, including the project architects, scheduled for Tuesday, May 25.

Jaho Liquor License Application

Representatives for Jaho Coffee and Tea at 1651 Wash-ington St. were also on hand for the meeting to discuss their application with the city for an all-alcoholic beverages license.

Marci Costa, the applicant’s attorney, said Jaho’s owner, Anil Manzini, who was also in attendence, be-lieves he could “add another element to the customer ex-perience at that location” by also providing craft beers, wine and cocktails, in addition to their signature coffee drinks, and that Manzini expects this additional service wouldn’t change the establishment’s current atmosphere and clientele.

If approved by the city, Jaho’s liquor license would also allow them to serve alcoholic beverages on the front patio, which has capacity for 20 people.

While Jaho now closes at 9 p.m. daily in the South End, they have applied to extend to the closing time at that location to 11 p.m., added Costa, but they would take “community input seriously” regarding this matter.

Manzini said Baho, which is celebrating its 10th an-niversary in the South End this year, has also renewed its lease for the Huntington Street location and said he in-tends to “freshen up” the space to better align it with other nearby businesses.

Renovations would get underway once Baho gets the green light on its liquor-license application, said Cos-ta.

David Stone, president of BFSNA, said all of the group’s individual members had voiced their support for the project, and barring receiving negative feedback from any abutters, the group would send a letter to the city in support of the application.

BFSNA Board Election

The BFSNA board voted unanimously to approve its slate of officers and directors for 2021-2022 term, including  Jonathan Alves, Vice President; Toni Crothall, Secretary; Heather Govern, Director; Matt Mues, Treasurer; Mark Ott, Director; and David Stone, President.

Boston Police Update

Captain Steve Sweeney was also on hand to provide an overview of Part One in District 4, which includes the Back Bay, South End, Lower Roxbury and the Fenway, year to date, compared to 2020.

Between Jan. 1 and May of 16 year, District 4 has seen a 19-percent reduction in Part One crime, said Cap-tain Sweeney, with 837 incidents in 2021, compared to 1,038 during the same timeframe last year.

Commercial burglaries were down nearly 54 percent, he said, as the number fell to 18 from 39 last year, while residential burglaries dropped nearly 19 percent as the number dropped to 43 from 53 in 2020.

Additionally, non-domestic aggravated assaults saw a nearly 36-percent reduction, said Captain Sweeney, as the number fell to 57 from 89 last year, and robberies were down nearly one-third as the number dropped to 29 from 44  last year.

Car breaks dropped to 98 from 199 last year, said Captain Sweeney, marking a 58 percent drop in reported incidents. Boston Police have also begun flyering other nearby vehicles when responding to car breaks, he said, to advise them to remain vigilant against the crime.

But despite the good news for District 4, District 6 has seen an increase of aggravated assaults, which are usually “homeless on homeless” in nature, said Captain Sweeney, since the comfort station closed.

Shots were recently fired in the vicinity of a cut-through in the area of the Villa Victoria housing devel-opment – an area that Captain Sweeney called a “hotspot,” and where, he said, shots were fired on five separate occasions last year. A gang member form the Villa Victoria has been arrested in connection with the incident, he said.

Captain Sweeney said Boston Police now have s “strong presence” in the Villa Victoria despite the hostile response they have received from some neighbors there, especially when addressing quality-of-life issues like drinking in public. “We need the community’s support because it’s going to be a hot summer,” he added.

An active investigation is also ongoing in connec-tion with what Captain Sweeney called a “terrible stab-bing” at Shawmut Avenue and West Newton Streets, while police also recently confiscated a “ghost gun” at 130 Dartmouth St.

In response to increased incidents of drag racing citywide, Captain Sweeny also asked residents to contact police if they see large groups of dirt bikes and ATVs en-tering a U-haul or a public garage.

City Councilor Ed Flynn thanked Captain Sweeney for his work and said he would be advocating for more police now that the city is in its budget process and en-couraged those in attendance to contact Councilor Baker, who represents part of the South End, and all of the City Councilors at-Large to make the same request.

Other Matters

Jonathan Alves, vice president of BFSNA, said the group is now looking for a “liaison to the dog community” and asked interested parties to contact them.

BFSNA is also holding a Scholarship Committee Banquet for its scholarship recipients on Wednesday, June 9, at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the pub-lic, but R.S.V.P is required at [email protected].

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