New Community Center to be Built in Dorchester
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the location selected for a new Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) community center in Dorchester. Currently a City-owned vacant lot, the future full service community center will be the first for Grove Hall. This location was selected after a robust community engagement process and was chosen based on the input of local residents.
“Our communities are stronger when everyone has the opportunity to come together to learn, play, collaborate, and build connections across generations,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “In environmental justice communities like Grove Hall it is especially important that our residents have safe, comfortable, resilient, and inspiring public spaces. I’m grateful to all our City departments and the community members that have advocated to make today’s announcement a reality.”
All of BCYF’s current community centers in Dorchester are located in school buildings which limits BCYF’s access to areas of the facility during school hours and affects programming hours. During the community process, participants expressed a strong desire for flexible BCYF spaces that can be utilized by residents of all ages at various times. Responses submitted by community members regarding desired programming included services BCYF currently offers at its centers such as continuing education offerings and farmers markets. Responses showed greatest interest in playscapes and spaces for social gathering.
“The BCYF Grove Hall Community Center will be a hive of activity for the community and an oasis for youth in the neighborhood,” said José Massó, Chief of Human Services. “I’m really excited that the City will be investing in several standalone community centers in Dorchester and that the community has chosen Grove Hall as the first site of many.”
“We know the importance of education, programming, resources, and dedicated community spaces in enhancing the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Councilor Brian Worrell. “I am excited to stand here today in Grove Hall with Mayor Wu and the community members whose vision for this community center have come to fruition. It will have a tremendous impact on the lives of countless young people in our neighborhood, similar to the way my community center in Dorchester transformed my life as a child."
Since October 2021, BCYF and the City’s Public Facilities Department have hosted four community meetings and released a survey to get input from Dorchester residents on where they would like to see a new community center built and the types of programs it should offer. The majority of those who attended the meetings were Dorchester residents and were supportive of a Grove Hall location. Grove Hall also received the most votes in a programming and location survey that was available throughout the siting process which included an online map that residents could use to select their desired location for the new community center.
This process examined over 40 privately and publicly owned locations in Dorchester. The properties were graded based on multiple factors, including whether other similar agencies were in the area, the size of the lot, and site acquisition costs. This community engagement process established the desired uses and activities for the new center, reviewed the size the center would need to be to host these activities, and then identified locations based on those criteria. Meeting slides and recordings can be found here.
“This announcement will provide a powerful pathway for young people and their families to access a variety of opportunities to overcome the racial disparities that previously limited the resources available in Grove Hall,” said Michael Kozu, Co-Director of Project RIGHT, Inc. “The Mayor and her team developed a neighborhood process that facilitated participation from a wide cross section of Dorchester that will lead to this full sized community center facility with intergenerational activities. This project is across the street from the renovated Jeremiah Burke High School, Grove Hall Senior Center and Grove Hall Library Branch complex and with the recently renovated Stop and Shop store nearby, significantly expands the vibrancy and potential of what Grove Hall has to offer.”
“This is an historic day for BCYF; the announcement of a ground up, brand new full service community center to be built–our first ever,” said Marta E. Rivera, Commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth & Families. “BCYF centers are thought of as the hub of their neighborhoods serving people of all ages but the investment in them has not always been there. This is a highlight of a new commitment to investing in BCYF and our facilities.”
Construction of the center will follow an additional community engagement process on the design of the new center. Budgeting, design, and construction of the center is expected to take three years. The estimated cost for the new center is $50 to $60 million.
BCYF currently operates a senior center across the street from this future center location within the Jeremiah Burke High School. To address the need for youth services in the neighborhood, it is anticipated that other locations in Dorchester will be explored in the future for additional community centers.