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.