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Consensus for Larger North End Community Center, But Where? [Meeting Video]

The Nazzaro Center community room was overflowing with residents on Wednesday night, driving home the main point of the meeting … the need for a larger community center in the North End.

The City’s team from Sasaki Architects concluded that the existing Nazzaro Center is roughly half the size of its current demand. A new center should be at least 40,000 to 50,000 square feet, about double the current space, officials said.

Highlighted takeaways from evaluating the usage of the Nazzaro is the long waiting list for programs. For just the kids programs, there are currently over 80 children on the waiting list. With no YMCA or Boys & Girls Club in the neighborhood, there is an enormous demand for the gym. Senior and teens are also looking for dedicated space and there is a strong desire for an indoor swimming pool. Other issues were that the weight room is too small and there is not enough storage space.

Site selection analysis by city officials started with these six sites:

  • (17:30 in video) New building at Nazzaro Center site
  • (20:30) Mirabella Pool House (and surrounding area owned by City)
  • (26:00) Sargent’s Wharf (current public parking lot owned by BPDA)
  • Fulton Street (current private parking lot owned by BPDA)
  • Cooper Street Site (recently privately sold)
  • DeFilippo Playground (The Gassy, City Owned)

Three of the six sites were recommended for further pricing evaluation, including expanding and renovating the existing Nazzaro Center, Mirabella Pool House and Sargent’s Wharf. Pros and cons were listed, as shown on this screen shot from the presentation (click to enlarge).

There was significant feedback at the meeting to reconsider the Fulton Street site which is currently a large private parking lot owned by the Boston Planning & Redevelopment Agency.

All options for a new community center would cost “in the tens of millions of dollars,” according to city officials. Economics will play a major role in any site selection decision as “we have to figure out how to pay for it,” said the presenters. The City is looking to potentially sell or redevelop the Nazzaro Center property, which was valued conservatively at $8 million (without the playground) by a consultant. Similarly, the Sargent’s Wharf site is large enough to partially sell to a developer while also accommodating a community center.

Both Sargent’s Wharf and the Fulton Street parking lots are owned by the BPDA and that agency would need to sign on to any potential disposition. State Article 97 also comes into play for the use of open space parkland, including the waterfront sites, requiring a 2/3 vote of the legislature. Both sites have been previously identified for housing, of an affordable nature in the case of Sargent’s Wharf. The two waterfront sites also have the additional issue of potential flooding and would need to be elevated as a result. Mayor Walsh recently announced a plan for the waterfront parcels to accommodate rising sea levels.

After a 30 minute presentation, residents spent over an hour commenting on the various site options (31:30 in video). The meeting feedback reiterated the need for more programming space along with the desire for an indoor pool. Several attendees cautioned against selling the existing Nazzaro Center property to a private developer given its long history and central neighborhood location. At the same time, many residents strongly advised city officials to evaluate the Fulton Street parking lot as a viable option.

This was the first public meeting this year on the subject of a new and/or renovated facility, after two introductory meetings in 2017. An initial digital survey received 123 responses. Officials have reopened it to garner more responses. Take the survey here.

A second survey is now open for feedback on the three final sites, Existing Nazzaro, Mirabella Pool House and Sargent’s Wharf. Give your feedback directly to the city here.

The Community Advisory Committee has the following members, although comments were taken from the general public at the meeting.

Nazzaro Center CAC Members (Introductions at 48:30 in video)

  • John Romano, North End Athletic Association, North End Against Drugs
  • Deb DeCristofaro, North End Seniors
  • John Pregmon, North End Waterfront Neighborhood Council
  • Becca Griffin, Boston Community Collaborative, Movers & Shakers (Infants)
  • Chad Wolfson, Nazzaro Center Parent
  • Sherri Snow, North End Music & Performing Arts Center
  • Luigi Natale, Nazzaro Center Member (Weight Room & Gymnasium)
  • Mikaela DelPriore, Nazzaro Center Teen
  • Karen D’Amico, North End/Nazzaro Parent
  • Laurie D’Elia, Nazzaro Center Programming

View the presentation slides here. Watch the video at the top of this article for the full meeting presentation and discussion.

10 Replies to “Consensus for Larger North End Community Center, But Where? [Meeting Video]

  1. Has anyone successfully completed this survey?! It is ridiculous and the time sink alone will upset people. Please come up with a realistic solution to engage the neighborhood.

  2. Sargents Wharf would be fantastic. Imagine taking that space and turning it into a neighborhood/public space enjoyed by the many? Great….

    1. Too far from the schools where most of the kids go AFTER achool and too far for the seniors. Great for the waterfront people and the tourists. Sargents Wharf is NOT a good location

  3. Fulton Street would be the best location for a community center, but the Nazzaro Center should also remain where it is. I believe this neighborhood needs both locations for after school programs for children and for activities for the seniors as well. Plus both schools use the gym at Nazzaro and would never have enough time to talk the kids to another location.

  4. My thoughts on the ideal scenario:

    Fulton Street: affordable housing with 60-75% (?more?) committed to housing for city employees (teachers, fire fighters, police, etc).

    Sargeant Wharf: Community & Sports Center + performing arts venue (with exclusive rights to North End businesses, schools, programs for some percentage of available time). Space for dance, music, visual arts. Off street drop off and pick up area.

    Existing Nazzaro Center: Senior Center and Adult Continuing Education programs. Community meeting space.

    Again, just my opinion on the ideal. I’m likely dreaming….

    The survey technique presented at the meeting was unfortunate. This is such an important topic for our community particularly as high rise living surrounds our neighborhood, anticipating putting a strain on our existing community services, green spaces, playgrounds, basketball courts. etc. Suggest people conducting the survey hang out at school pick up, playgrounds during the day, attend basketball games or soccer games. Sit at library for an afternoon. Spend a few days at the Nazzaro asking seniors and parents and kids. Hang out on Hanover St and Salem St and ask young adults as they walk home from work their thoughts. This does not need to be a scientific data gathering method, it just needs to be a lot more comprehensive and representative.

  5. Great ideas, Tara. It’s a shame you’re not on the advisory committee! Instead of putting the new Community & Sports Center at Sargeant’s Wharf, the affordable housing should be built there, which is exactly what that property was originally designated for so many years ago. Given its larger size, Sergeant’s could also provide some much needed open space along the waterfront as well. Fulton Street in my opinion is the best location for a new community center given its more accessible location. Since it isn’t in a flood zone, you could also dig down to accommodate underground parking and/or a large indoor pool.

    1. You want to put affordable housing on sergeants wharf? Why don’t we just put them up at the 4 seasons or the ritz Carlton?? There is nothing wrong with the nazzaro center other than the fact that it has not been updated since it was opened. The gym in there has had the same weights for 30 years and hasn’t gotten a new machine in 10. I have not seen a new Basketball in that gym in about 10 years.

  6. Just my opinion as someone who works with the children everyday. We need a community center with all the amenities it has to offer us that will service the entire communities needs. We should not settle for anything less. My only concern is that the Fulton st project will not meet the needs of our children. There are no parks to go play in that are easily accessible. The Mirabella would be more ideal for the kids because there is a soccer field, baseball field bocce court, basketball court and jungle gym. The children can go out into the fresh air everyday and run around which is vital to their development. I know there will be challenges such as drop off and pick up but we will have to make our Center work for everyone involved wherever it will be built for all its constituents.

  7. Laurie. Ideal for the kids, but for seniors and club meetings, the Mirabella location won’t work. Fulton Street seems ideal. You just need to find some grass close by ! What a shame because the Nazzaro (location; basketball courts; playground; and senior meetings) need the Nazzaro Center. Sargeant’s Wharf gets flooded quite often. I would keep that as last choice.

    1. the mirabella pool won’t work for senior and club meetings? the two locations are only blocks apart. your contention is a bit ridiculous.

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