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Jackson Square recreational center plans are approved

Facility will include year-round ice skating rink, artificial turf field, class space, computer labs

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Jackson Square recreational center plans are approved
Hyde Square Task Force youth organizers Mabel Gondres, Emely Mateo, Lorrie Pearson, Jonah Muniz and Victor DelCarmen at the site of the proposed Jackson Square recreational center being developed by Urban Edge and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation.

At long last, an ice skating rink may come to the Jackson Square area, at the border of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Plans for the Jackson Square Recreational Center were approved by the Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency on March 17. The facility plans include an indoor ice rink, indoor artificial turf field, computer labs and classrooms.

The recreational center’s opening on Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street — as yet unscheduled — will introduce the first year-round ice skating rink in the area since Roxbury lost its Melnea Cass Rink 25 years ago and JP lost the Kelly Rink in 1997. While a temporary outdoor rink later opened near the Stony Brook MBTA station in JP operates for three to four months of the year, the two permanent rinks were never replaced.

Shayne Clinton, a junior at Boston Community Leadership Academy and a member of the Hyde Square Task Force, said that the area also currently lacks spaces for playing sports. Introducing the center will fulfill an important equity need, Clinton said.

“There are parks, but those aren’t really good enough to stay fit and I feel like this rec center will help people stay fit and get people to have more of a chance to have fun,” Clinton told the Banner. “More suburban areas outside Boston get to have nice rec centers, while urban areas like Jackson Square don’t have any rec center or facility.”

The new center also will fulfill a piece of the Jackson Square Master Plan, developed more than a decade ago, that calls for social and recreational space that is open and affordable to the community, according to documents filed with the BPDA.

Project details

Urban Edge and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation are collaborating to develop the recreational center. Their plan was recently approved by the BPDA and calls for a year-round ice rink with bleacher seats and a year-round indoor turf field on a separate floor. The total project is 75,000 square feet. Space also will be provided for classes, a computer lab and other programming.

Katie Provencher, deputy director of Urban Edge, said that while no specific groups are locked into providing programming, developers envision that the space will provide for a multitude of purposes, including rink use for learn-to-skate programs, parent-and-child classes, hockey and open skating, and turf use for a variety of sports as well as family movie nights.

Documents filed with the BPDA state that the center creates employment opportunities for residents and youth as well as a safe and welcoming space for youth.

Equity need

In February 2017, Hyde Square Task Force youth arranged a rally and press conference in which they called for funding support to realize the long-awaited center. More fitness opportunities are expected to improve the health of local residents, who have few options, they stated.

The 1.5-mile radius around the proposed project includes more than 26,000 youth, most of whom are black and Latino, and the Jackson Square households primarily are low-income, according to the Task Force. The teens said that low-income and minority neighborhoods have fewer recreational facilities than wealthier and largely white communities, and they drew a connection between lack of recreational offerings and a the Boston Children’s Hospital’s 2013 finding of higher obesity rates among black and Latino teens than among white teens.

“Black and Latino youth in Boston are twice as likely to be overweight and obese when compared with white youth. If this center had been built, these statistics could be different,” said Jonah Muniz, a youth leader from Roxbury, in a Hyde Square Task Force press release.

Provencher said the rec center is one among many projects under the Jackson Square redevelopment plan and completion of other projects allowed the developers to then turn their focus to the recreation center.

Getting to groundbreaking

Frank Shea, CEO of Urban Edge, estimates the project will cost $21.5 million. By the end of March, the developers had gathered a $5.69 million commitment from the state, federal New Market Tax Credits totaling about $5 million, $30,000 from a crowdfunding campaign conducted last year, and $2 million in fundraising from corporations and foundations, Shea said. He also is in discussions about a further $5 million that may come from two potential anchor institution organizations intending to offer programming at the facility.

While there remains a funding gap, Provencher was hopeful.

“There is great momentum around fundraising, which we are hoping to close in the next few months,” she said.

Shea said he expects to be able to begin construction in the third quarter of 2017.