Op-Ed: Please Come on April 25: City Reveals Plans for Nazzaro Center

By Ellen Hume, Marie Simboli and Kirsten Hoffman – Save the Nazzaro Coalition

WHAT: The future of the Nazzaro building and all the community programs currently housed there are on the line as the city’s consultants present a briefing to the community April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Nazzaro Community Center, 30 North Bennet St., Boston.


WHY: The Mayor promised us that he will keep the Nazzaro building in city hands, and won’t tear it down, even as the new community center is built. But what actually happens to it will be directly affected by what is announced on April 25. At this public meeting, the City’s Sasaki Associates architects will present their final proposals for building a new North End community center building, probably on the waterfront.  

THE PROBLEM: We strongly support having a new community center for some programs like basketball, because we all agree that the current Nazzaro building is too small to house all the programs that the North End’s growing population needs today. The current building urgently needs to be refurbished, and a creative team from the Boston Architectural College has donated their time to help us imagine what might be done there.

From the beginning, our public officials have treated these two issues as separate: build an entirely new community center, and then later figure out what happens to the Nazzaro building, left empty when they move. This does not seem logical or fiscally responsible. This is not what the community wants!

THE SOLUTION: We will find out on April 25 if the city finally recognizes the obvious: we should keep some programs in the Nazzaro building and put others in a new facility at a second location. At their first briefing last October, North Enders told Sasaki they should consider Fulton Street as a possible second site. It could be part of a mixed-use building—which could include the new indoor basketball court, a pool, and other needed programs, but also include some revenue-generating features, such as offices, condos , parking or other uses.  

Have they heard us? We have no idea.Our requests to meet with Sasaki have been ignored, despite nearly 1,400 signatures on two petitions about the future of the Nazzaro building. The decision to move all the programs to one new location was made behind closed doors and never offered for a public vote.

This lack of transparency backfired at Sasaki’s first briefing, last October. They proposed putting the all-eggs-in-one-basket new community center on Sargeant’s Wharf, or next to the Mirabella Pool. The waterfront locations are controversial. People are concerned about flooding, moving everything to the edge of the neighborhood, and requiring our youngest and oldest neighbors to travel there.

Sasaki’s third and final choice was the least popular of all: tearing down the current Nazzaro building– a beloved North End institution that is pending as an official Landmark due to its immigrant history and architecture—which they admitted was even less practical! When they proposed this, Sasaki acknowledged immediately that the current footprint would still be too small, even if they took over the open space of the Polcari playground! 

So what will Sasaki propose on April 25 at 6:30 p.m.? Please come to the Nazzaro Center to give your feedback: the city wants to give us new community facilities, and we need your support to go forward in a positive way.

By Ellen Hume, Marie Simboli and Kirsten Hoffman, Save the Nazzaro Coalition welcomes commentaries on community issues via email to or through our Submit a Post online form. Opinions are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of or other writers on this site. Responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

25 Replies to “Op-Ed: Please Come on April 25: City Reveals Plans for Nazzaro Center

  1. I struggle to understand the emphasis on the safety concern of crossing Commercial street (with walk signs) and how that is more of a safety concern than crossing Hanover street (without walk signs). Further, I do not understand why anyone would want condos and offices; allowing virtually anyone into the building, and community center activities in one building. That is a huge safety concern for the children; more concerning then having them cross a street with a cross walk and signals.

    1. I’m sorry you struggle to understand that Commercial St, even with walk lights, is dangerous to cross. You would allow an 8 year old to cross without parental supervision? Good luck with that.

      1. I never said I struggle to understand how Commercial st. is dangerous to cross; my statement (which is the first line) was regarding my confusion around why all of the sudden there is such emphasis on crossing a street when they do that now on Hanover, arguably the busiest street in the neighborhood. Never mentioned 8 year old children walking by themselves either; in fact, I do not believe many let their 8 year old kids walk by them selves now.

  2. I hope the more rational voices of the North End show up to this meeting. Otherwise this “squeaky wheel” and their self- serving interests may get the oil. As a neighborhood parent, I do not share any of the three concerns regarding the waterfront locations. I would like to continue the current building as a neighborhood service and maintain the openness of Polcaris playground.

    1. “I would like to continue the current building as a neighborhood service and maintain the openness of Polcaris playground.”
      Isn’t that what the “Save the Nazzaro” group wants as well? They don’t want the building torn down and they want the Polcari to remain as is.

          1. Really Anon? If you don’t see it then you really need to take a closer look.

            I applaud folks wanting to fight to keep Nazzaro but it can not come at the expense of a new facility.

            We need a new center and I would ask everyone to please voice your opinion in favor of a new facility.

            1. So which is…does that group want to “preserve the waterfront for the wealthy”?…or…is is they hate kids and don’t want a new community center…because that’s how some of the whack jobs are portraying this..

              1. Anon- that’s a very limited mental capacity you are exhibiting. And calling people names to make your point- I wonder what tool kit you got that from. In my opinion, this group definitely wants a community benefit of a center for kids and elderly but they only want it once their self-interest is guaranteed.

              2. Some of the Save the Nazzaro folks actually have kids who attend the Nazzaro Center. I would suggest the people who think they have better solutions to show up and be heard at the meeting tomorrow night. I’ve seen/heard very few folks come up with viable alternative solutions at the open meetings. Mostly they just appear on this website.

        1. Neighbor,

          You said what I’ve been thinking for years. The “save the waterfront” group are mostly self serving. They are wealthy individuals who care about their own personal view and property value. Many of the buildings they live in block the waterfront view from others. Very hypocritical group.

          1. And many of the residents across from the current Nazzaro are against expanded it because of open space (which is code for “their view”)

        2. No. This is not correct! We do not have a position on the waterfront locations. We were recounting what people said at the meeting.

          1. That’s not true. Please refer to the mailer postcard distributed by yourself. Remember the one with the big black box over the Mirabella pool area? You prove my point by trying to deny your obvious position. I am hoping the more reasonable voices in the neighborhood show up to this meeting. Preserving the Nazzaro and siting a new and badly needed Community Center for the North End are two separate issues. Only people trying to manipulate the system tie the two together.

  3. I’m confused. With all this talk about crossing commercial st you would think ppl are crossing 93 south. If that rational about commercial street is accurate then maybe we should move the new school, the rink, the new fields and the pool. Our kids and families and seniors all visit these locations now throughout the year without issues. Now it’s a concern with a new facility???

    I’m obviously being sarcastic but a person spoke about Hanover St and is spot on. Hanover is more dangerous than commercial st.

    1. I beg to differ that Hanover Street is more dangerous than Commercial. Both are dangerous in different regards. People drive down Commercial Street like it’s the Indianapolis 500. Hanover Street has a heavier volume of traffic, more pedestrians. But because of the volume, cars tend to move a lot more slowly than they do on Commercial Street. I’ve never seen anyone go down Hanover as fast as they do on Commercial Street unless it’s very late at night or very early in the morning.

      1. Anon are you against a new center? Obviously you want to keep the existing one.

        Because the meeting tomorrow isn’t about what they are planning on doing with the current center but rather about the new facility.

        1. I would love a new center and would love for it to be in the existing place provided it preserves the structure.

      2. Exactly. People seem to forget the BMW that crashed on Commercial going Mach 1 a few years ago, killing people.
        People fly down that street, especially when they’re irritated with traffic or loaded.

  4. Historic preservation of the Nazzaro building is separate from the placement and need for a new community center because it has been shown that the old location cannot accommodate the needs and opportunities of what is being offered in the new building. The self- serving manipulation that conflates the two as one issue is a disservice to the neighborhood.

  5. I hope there is a great turnout at tonight’s meeting. A few points that have come out of our meetings with the Boston Architectural College team, the Boston Landmarks Commission hearing, and the October 17 Sasaki presentation:

    1. The North End needs a community center with the size and resources sufficient to meet the community’s needs. The community functions could potentially be located in more than one building. Other neighborhoods have multiple community center buildings.
    2. The Nazzaro building and Polcari playground should be preserved as a historic resource.
    3. There is significant interest in the North End for having the Nazzaro building continue to serve community functions.
    4. We know from Sasaki’s study that the Nazzaro building is too small for things like a full basketball court, but it could house community rooms, an auditorium and flex space while active uses (basketball court, etc.) could be located at a new site.
    5. There may well be enough potential uses and needs in the North End to ultimately result in full community uses or more than one site. If that is the case, the designs of the sites should be coordinated so that the uses are complementary rather than duplicative.
    6. There should at least be consideration of an approach the retains the historic Nazzaro building for community uses and also creates a new modern community center at another location.

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