A mass mailing was sent to thousands of North End / Waterfront residents this week opposing a new community center at the site next to the Mirabella Pool. The City has yet to decide on a site, although the Commercial Street location remains under consideration, according to city officials. A potential new building would be built where the spray pool is located on Commercial Street and include the area where there is currently a bathhouse.

The North End Community Advisory Committee last met in December 2017 to discuss results from a study on the needs, layout options and expectations for a new building. [See North End Community Center Study Shares Program Recommendations for New Building.]

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The property owners that sent out the postcard told NorthEndWaterfront.com they want to raise community awareness about the site selection process and are asking the City to remove the Commercial Street location from consideration. They are in the early stages of asking residents to respond via their protectthewaterfront@gmail.com email address. So far, they count 30 residents and property owners that are against the Commercial Street site for a new community center.

The opposition postcard says “Save the North End Waterfront” and lists concerns such as flooding, park shadows, waterfront view restrictions and highlight that the peripheral location is inconvenient and potentially unsafe for seniors and children. [Note: We have confirmed the mailing is not associated with the previous group using the same “Save the North End Waterfront” moniker who were fighting a proposed hotel development at Lewis Wharf.]

City officials emphasize that no decision has been made yet in the site selection process, but the location next to the Mirabella Pool remains a potential location. Alistair Lucks, City of Boston Project Manager for the Study at Public Facilities, provided the following update in response to the recently raised concerns.

“We are still considering this site, adjacent to the Mirabella Pool, as a potential site. We are certainly mindful of all of the issues raised, as we work with various City agencies to vet all of the potential sites before presenting them to the Community Advisory Committee for feedback.  We definitely plan to meet with the CAC and gather feedback from the community before making any final decisions.  We hope to hold the next CAC meeting in the early fall for this express purpose.”

At previous meetings, the proposed plans for a new community center introduce designated spaces for key constituents, including the general public, seniors/adults, teens, children, and also for popular activities, such as music, sports, cardio, weightlifting, and studio fitness (ie. dance, yoga). The Mayor’s FY19 budget includes $3 million for the design of a new North End Community Center.

Renovation of the existing Nazzaro Center on North Bennet Street remains an option, but officials note the current building is over capacity and too small for the community’s expanded needs, even including the outdoor lot/basketball court. It was also designed as a bathhouse, not a community center so the existing structure would likely have to be torn down. There is not much public land ready for development in the Boston’s North End. Besides the pool site, there are a a few remaining parking lots, on Cross Street and on Commercial Street including the BRA-owned Sargent’s Wharf. A new center is expected to be significantly larger, more accessible and include amenities such as an indoor swimming pool.

The City could also look to sell the existing Nazzaro Center property to a condo developer and use those proceeds for a new building in the neighborhood.

A community meeting in the early Fall is expected to be scheduled. Stay tuned to the Community Calendar for upcoming meetings.


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28 COMMENTS

  1. So what I take out of this is that a few people that own million dollar condos think they have a right to waterfront views and tranquility.

    Can’t deal with a bit of inconvenience for the betterment of our neighborhood.

    • So where did you fall on the Starbucks debate? Did you fall on the side of a few restaurant/property owners who thought they could impose their own economic interests on the general population in the neighborhood?

  2. Let’s consider each of the concerns:

    1️⃣”After removing a lane of traffic, Commercial Street would struggle to handle increased pedestrian crossings”
    False/nonsense. That doesn’t make any sense. Crossing three lanes of traffic is somehow harder on pedestrians than four lanes? The crossing at this location is the only dedicated pedestrian light in the whole neighborhood as far as I know.

    2️⃣”The land will face increasing, consistent flooding”
    False. According to Climate Ready Boston, the site has zero percent chance of flooding every year through the 2030s. In the 2050’s the portion of the site on which the existing bathhouse sits has a 1% chance of flooding each year.

    3️⃣”A large structure on that site would shrink the size of access to the waterfront.”
    False. There is no existing access to the waterfront at this location. Nor is there access for another 435 feet to the northwest or 820 feet to the southeast.

    4️⃣It would reduce water views.
    Possibly? The water is currently obstructed by the bath house, trees, and the awnings at the pool. I don’t see how this building would make that situation worse.

    5️⃣It would cast more shadows on the green space.
    Possibly? The Puopolo park runs generally west southwest and is bordered by four-story building plus the bathhouse on the southeast site. Unless the proposed community center were exceptionally high, shadows would be negligible at worst. We’d need more info to be sure.

    6️⃣[The community center] would no longer be a central location for the residents of the North End.
    True!

    Half of the stated concerns are just made up or patently false. Two are questionable and one is true. I’m concerned that a group of anonymous individuals has taken it upon themselves to spread this misinformation and I wonder what their motivations are. Perhaps they were just misguided? I welcome clarifications/corrections if the anonymous group wants to step forward.

    (Side note: An indoor pool sounds AMAZING 😊)

  3. I found this mailing to be very informative. I would love a new community center! It seems like the current location of the parking lot on Fulton St would be a better option especially with the risks of flooding.

    1) I feel there isn’t an issue as to how many lanes need to be crossed. I live on Commercial St and traffic often backs up from the pedestrian crossings at the Foster St light (which only turns red for pedestrian crossings). Traffic on Commercial St is bad enough.
    2) This is the strongest point from the postcard. I have a video of that area flooded last winter. 1% chance of flooding is very high! Historically all estimates of sea level rise are underestimated so I am very concerned about the flooding.
    3) I agree.
    4) I agree.
    5) I am very concerned about the shadows as this is some of the only green space. Why lose this beautiful space to a building when it can be located in a shadowy place of the NE?
    6) I agree

    I emailed with the group and was provided contact info.

  4. I’m glad that some North Enders have common sense and are opposing this waterfront location. I heartily agree with their astute assessment of the facts.

    The biggest issue is that this location is simply non-central — it’s closer to Charlestown than parts of the North End! The other proposed locations are much more accessible. Looking forward to hearing more about the other locations!

  5. Unfortunately the Boston Parks department made the decision to replace our only green space with artificial turf (Puopolo Park redo). So shadow argument in this case is moot re grass growing
    A location more central to North End such as Fulton lot seems sensible especially for children going to and fro. Commercial Street receives no more traffic enforcement than anywhere else in Boston and many motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists do what they want light or no light.

  6. As a long time resident of the North End, I don’t want to see a big building going up there! I don’t care that it would be our new community center. It would totally change the feel of the North End. Everything is getting so developed nowadays that it’s getting hard to recognize our city. I don’t want that to happen here. I don’t want to lose the charm that makes the North End so special. Let’s find a more centralized location so that it’s OUR community center, not just a draw for more development and commercialization. We didn’t want Starbucks for the same reason. Some things just aren’t a good fit for the North End and developing next to the Mirabella Pool is one of them!

  7. Fulton Street has large footprint, open possibilities, and possible access via multiple roads.

    Why shoehorn a facility onto the driveway/ spray pool and hurt our own interests by further walling off the neighborhood visually from the water? We should be opening waterfront space, not filling it it. Anything built down by the pool should be water focused- boat launching, boardwalks, etc.

    And how many summers would the pool be closed for construction?

    Whether or not the field is grass, open space and sunshine is important, and less density at the waters edge is part of that.

  8. Of course it is opposed, the people with their heads in the sand in our area are opposed to anything and everything new, progressive and positive for the area.
    The coast guard station, the Freefom Trail, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, or Old Ironsides would face an argument if proposed today! Grow up, get a life, worry about opioids, and real social issues.

  9. Also-
    I’m open to sites other than the Mirabella.
    I’m not open to the greed that is motivating this group.
    Who wrote this terrible letter?
    Their reasoning is absurdly transparent, attempting to cloak their greed in concern about the long term prospects of the site.
    Our voices do matter, of course.
    The residents fought Starbucks and won because it would have been BAD for the neighborhood.
    This will be GOOD for the neighborhood, but BAD for these people.
    Winchester awaits you with open arms, ‘Protect The Waterfront’!

  10. We are lucky to live in a city on a waterfront and the waterfront where thousands of people come to see where or country began. We should be preserving as much natural beauty as we can without erecting structure after structure along it’s shores. Assessing possible sites for the new North End Community Center, it seems that filling our waterfront with another large structure is exactly what we should NOT be doing. Preserving the little green space left along the water should be one of our primary concerns. The location is not central to the neighborhood and will potentially add significant traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular to Commercial Street. Maintaining less density along the street and waterfront at this location should be another goal of our neighborhood. With the major construction project already planned for the ball field the selection of this site for the new center will add to the disruption of the area for an even longer span of time.

    I oppose this as the site for the new community center.

    Angela

    • Your exactly correct…this building would be a behemoth of a disaster. the open green space is a luxury. period. the development for a Community Center needs more vetting and moreover the betterment of a more logical site.

  11. So the bottom line if that the city wants to tear down the current center and sell the land to the developer to build more ugly condo’s like the Chrysanthemum building on Salem street. I don’t mind the new community center, but I think the old building can be repurposed beautifully with renovation.

  12. The Nazzaro — the bottom line: you couldn’t ask for a better location. Very close proximity to schools. Parents feel secure in their children’s safety there. The children walk single file to the Nazzaro after school.
    It is a location where children and families feel secure. Outdoor basketball courts; kids are in full view when outside; entrance from two streets. The Nazzaro is a diamond in the rough for families and children.

    • It is so successful that it is out of room and can no longer service the needs of the various groups it serves. Personally I would like to see the Nazzaro Center renovated and used as a senior center and meeting space for community groups Maybe the solution is to eliminate the outdoor basketball courts and put a new building there for the after school programs, teen center, gym , regulation indoor basketball court etc.

      • Joyce: The Nazzaro would work on the Fulton lot.
        The problem with building on basketball courts is the closing in of a space that is much needed and utilized. It is a breath of fresh air to see an OPEN space in the midst of tiny narrow streets that surround the courts. Great seeing teams of men and women playing ’til dark. They love it and need the courts.
        Where else would they play? Indoors? I don’t think so. No need to build on the courts. Someone mentioned Fulton Street and that would keep the Nazzaro central for everyone.

        • I’m not in favor of getting rid of the basketball courts but you do know that there are outdoor courts on that very street closer to Commercial St (The Gassy). And, I believe there are outdoor courts on Stillman Street as well as near the pool.

    • I hope that everyone who agrees with Heather and the like-minded commenters in this thread will contact me, because I am an abutter to the current Nazzaro Center, and am working on preserving the current basketball court, Polcari playground, and the exterior of the historic Nazzaro center building, the old bath house that is so beautiful and unique. Steven Siciliano, I don’t oppose having the community center add new faclities in a second location (pool etc.), but please do not sell off our open space, and we do need for some community uses of this centrally located(renovated) building. Please contact me if you want to join an effort to be sure the old Nazzaro building and location is treated as a treasured part of our community, rather than a money-making condo opportunity fo the city and one lucky developer. There has been a lack of transparency about the planning and decision-making that is pretty disturbing. Who, for example, is on the planning committee (“task force”) to decide the future of the Nazzaro Center? No one has been willing to disclose this to me.

  13. There has been a senior club located at the Nazzaro center since the 70s. This club provides the seniors of our community a chance to leave their homes on club days which are Tuesdays and Thursdays and mingle with friends, play a little bingo and have some fun. Members range in age from 60s to 90s. Moving the Nazzaro to the Mirabella pool location would essentially close the senior club due to the inability of the members to walk to that location. The seniors, who some consider as throwaways are the ones who helped build this wonderful neighborhood of ours.
    We have no financial stake in the matter, don’t own businesses and can’t buy the ultra expensive new condos. I ask who is going to rally for the seniors? Anyone?

  14. Full Disclosure: My name is Steven Siciliano and I am the new incoming Director of the Nazzaro Center and I am not opposed to this site location. Granted, it is self serving because as director I am also responsible for the Mirabella Pool in the summer months. Therefore, being at one location to handle both responsibilities would make my life easier. But that is not my only reason, I truly believe this site would be great for our families/children and to play in the adjacent fields (please no comments on the turf) & the outdoor pool in the summer months without having to travel but a few feet. I am also hopeful this site can potentially offer more parking than any other. I love the idea of an indoor pool.

    In the end, I just want a new community center and believe this location can do just that. If any other site can accommodate these plans then I am ok with that too – not that I have any control over it.

    The current location of Nazzaro simply does not work. For those of you who comment and/or may have never step foot inside just know that we can’t even have other teams play us in basketball because our court is too small with very limited parking. Our CYO home games are in East Boston. Is that centrally located for our youth/families? Are we saying it’s ok for our children to travel to another neighborhood to play “home” games? I certainly hope not. There is only so much space at the current location that there is no way they will be able to accommodate the real needs of our community and not one specific group. We are in DESPERATE need of a new center!

    I hope there are not folks who do not want a new center at all because that would be sad and selfish.. We speak about open space and I understand your point, but no matter where it’s built (including Fulton Street) open space is going to be lost. So are we against the Center, open space, or both? Speaking honestly, if it’s between our kids and open space…..kids win EVERY time! I respect your choice – please respect mine.

    Bottom line, not everyone is going to be happy – no matter where it is built. There are negative aspects of every location BUT we definitely need a new center (not a renovated one).

    As for the seniors, I have not forgotten about you – if this were the location (Mirabella) I would do everything in my power to provide shuttle service to/from the Nazzaro with several pick up/drop off locations to accommodate your needs. You are a vital member of our community and will never be discarded, disrespected or ignored!

    Again, all I ask is for folks to be respectful & open minded. I know I will be. I hope you will too. Thanks.

    Respectfully,
    Steven

  15. I have a couple questions about the mailing since I haven’t seen a copy:

    1. Did anyone individually attach their name to the mailing?

    2. If so, did they say what information or basis they used to determine the building size…..or did they just try and draw the biggest red box possible to scare people?

  16. Adam Balsam does a fine job pointing out how this group did themselves no favors in its wording. The park about not supporting pedestrians is a head-scratcher: the last I checked, crossing two fewer lanes of traffic decreased one’s probability of being hit.

    It is quite obvious they are concerned about property value. I actually think they underestimate the potential for upside, or at least neutrality when it comes to property value. The neighborhood is becoming much more family-oriented given the draw of the Eliot and programs like NEMPAC, NEAA, etc. So a family looking to buy in North End would likely love that location. Furthermore, I don’t think ANY of us fully comprehend what driving in the North End will look and feel like in 5, 10 or 15 years. But I would venture/hope to guess it may become more efficient and less cluttered with self-driving cars that eventually park elsewhere. My only point is we all need to “skate to where the puck will be” before we form divisive and faceless NIMBY (not in my back yard) factions. I do think abutting residents deserve to have a huge say in what the building looks like. That’s only fair. And maybe they get free access or something as well.

    Steven, best of luck to you. As a parent with two young kids we are so fortunate to live here during such an exciting time.

    • Thanks Carl – I too thought Adam made some great points!

      I am excited to get started and a new Center in the coming years will only make our community that much better. It is a great sight to see families actually staying in the North End and a state of the art facility will attract and keep families here.

      Thanks again!

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