By Martin J. Walsh

For over a century, the Nazzaro Community Center has represented the heart and soul of the North End. Generations have gathered there to learn, play, and have fun. While carrying on the rich traditions of this historic neighborhood, it’s also important that the center respond to the community’s changing needs. Throughout its long life, the building has undergone renovations, most recently in 2004. And now, the time has come to create a community center with the space and amenities that meet the needs of North End residents today.

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Anyone who goes to the Nazzaro regularly can see that the current building is at capacity. It has a choppy layout, cramped rooms, a too-small basketball court, and no dedicated spaces for seniors or teens. It’s not unusual to find programs occurring in the hallways. That’s why regular visitors to the center have asked me to explore options for renovating or relocating the center to house a bigger space and expanded programming.

We began the process of planning a new community center in May 2017, with the goal of creating a larger space for more users. The City of Boston created a community advisory committee made up of residents and key stakeholders. We have held public meetings to encourage comments and hear ideas for the process, and presented our study at a public community meeting this past October.

The study recommends doubling the capacity of the community center from 20,500 square feet to at least 41,000 square feet. A bigger space would allow for dedicated education, civic, arts, and sports programming. Six sites were explored for the study, and options have been narrowed down to three sites: the existing Nazzaro Center, the Mirabella Pool House, and the Sargent’s Wharf Site.

Throughout this process, strong community engagement is absolutely crucial. We’ve created surveys that encourage people to weigh in. One of them, called “A Day in the Life of the North End,” asks community members to describe their experiences in the neighborhood and identify what they most want to see at their future community center. So far, respondents’ most-desired programs are a community room, a regulation-size basketball court, appropriate spaces for more arts and crafts, and more spaces that better accommodate programming at the center. The survey is still posted online and we encourage all community members to participate. We also encourage residents to view and comment on the three potential locations.

This process is still in the early stages, and no final decisions have been made yet. The design team is taking all the community comments from meetings and surveys and developing a final report which will include a site recommendation. After the report comes out, and if we decide to move forward with designing a new center, community feedback will shape the design process.

Studying potential locations for a new community center is just one of the many ways we’re improving public spaces and expanding opportunity in the North End. Other investments include $34.3 million to renovate the Eliot School; $6.2 million to redesign Lagone Park and Puopolo Playground; $2.8 million to renovate Paul Revere Mall; $2.5 million to reconstruct North Square; and $260,000 in improvements to Christopher Columbus Park.

Throughout this planning process to create a bigger and better community center for the neighborhood, we want to continue to hear input and recommendations from North End residents. I know how important it is for our residents to have a high-quality space to gather as a community, and am committed to working in partnership with the residents of the North End to create a space that will serve the neighborhood in the best way possible for years to come.

For more information about getting involved in the planning process, please contact our North End liaison, Maria Lanza, at Maria.Lanza@boston.gov.

Top Photo: Mayor Walsh at a past speaking engagement in the gymnasium of the Nazzaro Community Center. (NEWF Image)

View more Community Center coverage on NorthEndWaterfront.com.

11 COMMENTS

  1. The Mirabella pool is a top destination for residents to cool off in extreme heat and the pool is already overcrowded in the summer.

    “Not long after the Mirabella Pool in the North End opened Tuesday, 50 people had arrived, said Patti Giovanniello, a pool employee. Bigger crowds were on the way, she predicted.“ – Boston Globe

    “Can get really crowded, so if you want to swim some laps, be sure to go during their designated lap swim hours (or be prepared to dodge others on your way to the other side of the pool).” – Yelp

    “I do not even want to tell you how completely awesome this place is in fear you will go and cause it to be more crowded.” – Yelp

    As part of the Mirabella pool location option, it was proposed that one of the two swimming pools be removed and the spray pool moved into the gated complex. In a particularly hot neighborhood with many buildings lacking air conditioning, the pools are not only used for relaxation but also as a way to keep cool in the extreme heat of the summer. With these factors in mind, if the Mirabella location is to be considered, could the plan be modified to ensure that all three of the pools and surrounding sitting space remain and, ideally, get expanded?

    • The two most distant points in the North End are about 1/2 mile apart from each other. So no matter where the center is located, it can’t be much more than a 10-minute walk for anyone.

      What I can’t understand is why people keep referring the Fulton Street lot as centrally located. It’s every bit as much on the periphery as the current pool bathhouse. And surrounded by highway onramps to boot.

  2. For all of you who have an opinion about the North End community center and/or the preservation of the Nazzaro Center building and Polcari Playground as a historic resource, it is extremely important for you to let the City know so that they can take all input into account in their planning process, which has commenced and in ongoing. The online surveys referenced on the Mayor’s statement above do not allow for comment regarding options in addition to those under consideration so far — (i) demolish or significantly alter the existing Nazzaro Center, (ii) Mirabella Pool and (ii) Sargents Wharf. So, please send an e-mail or letter to Maria Lanza (see below). It is not enough to leave comments here — they may not get to the City. There may be options other than those already presented that will work better for the North End, such as preserving the existing Nazzaro Center AND building a new center — but consideration will need to be part of the planning process.

    MARIA LANZA
    1 CITY HALL SQUARE, ROOM 805
    BOSTON, MA 02201
    UNITED STATES
    maria.lanza@boston.gov

  3. Having attended the only public access meeting about a new center and the NEWRA meeting last evening, it should be acknowledged there is great interest in the community to preserve the historic Nazzaro building. Additionally, there is strong support to keep some services located at a renovated Nazzaro while enhancing and expanding others with a new center. Many communities have Senior centers or early childhood programming in separate locations from their sports gymnasiums. The current budget line items are only directed at abandoning Nazzaro without considering a different model. The survey is impossible to do, so please call the Mayor’s office to encourage the Mayor to revisit this issue and look at a new center while preserving our cherished history.

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