Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gave his take on the Nazzaro Center building and prospects for a new community center, in an interview this week with NorthEndWaterfront.com.
Mayor Walsh said he has been surprised about the concerns regarding the current Nazzaro Center building. “The Nazzaro Center building is a beautiful building. If we were to build a new Nazzaro Center somewhere else in the North End, I would work with the community on what would happen with the current building. I would certainly not want to put something there that the community does not want,” said the mayor.
City consultants looked at six initial sites for a new community center presented at an October 2018 public meeting, and recommended three for pricing: (1) Mirabella Pool House, (2) Sargent’s Wharf and (3) expanding the existing Nazzaro building. A fourth site, the Fulton Street parking lot, was highlighted by residents at the meeting as a location also worth reconsidering.
A brand new community center could cost upwards of $30 million and the mayor is perplexed why North Enders would turn that down. “[The North End] is the only neighborhood that I know where there are people opposed to building a new, state-of-the-art facility for our young people in the community,” said Walsh regarding criticism that surfaced at the October meeting. “Sal LaMattina came to me years ago when he was councilor to do a study to find a place where kids could play and hang out in a new North End complex. We are moving forward with that.”
“I never, ever said we are selling the Nazzaro Center building. We are not in the habit of selling our properties, in my administration.” -Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
At least two opposition groups have emerged, one is against the site in front of the Mirabella Pool. More recently, a “Save the Nazzaro” group has been actively soliciting signatures to protect the current building’s exterior and dimensions. The latter group has also submitted a petition to the Boston Landmark Commission. On that front, Walsh said, “You can landmark the building, but you cannot landmark the Nazzaro Center,” implying the name could travel to a new location.
As for the building that is there, Walsh said he would work with the community on whatever makes sense to put there. He is open to a senior center, housing or other options. “We’re not just going to sell the current building to make money,” he emphasized. “There is a lot of misinformation going around.”
“I never, ever said we are selling the Nazzaro Center building,” Walsh said emphatically. “We are not in the habit of selling our properties, in my administration.” He noted the exception of selling the Winthrop Square Garage “because it was a condemned garage that would never be rebuilt again. But in general, we want to keep city property. You never know what we might need space for down the road, such as schools, housing or community centers.”
When asked about discussions with the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), Walsh said he has not talked to the agency about potential BPDA sites, including Sargent’s Wharf and the Fulton Street parking lot. “There is a community process. We are looking at different sites,” Walsh said.
Walsh repeated that he was “taken aback there is such pushback” to the study. “We are only talking about building a new community center for our kids. Honestly, there is an opportunity here to do a lot of great things.” he added.
The mayor also spoke of his efforts to bring new community spaces to other neighborhoods in the city. In East Boston, the city refurbished and expanded the Parrish St. gym. There is a new center on Vine Street in Roxbury and the Gallivan Blvd site was done over in Mattapan. He noted that several other community centers are set for refurbishment.
“At the end of the day, our kids in Boston deserve to have state of the art facilities,” Walsh concluded.