By Pete Stidman
Well over five years of work, planning and hope
found a dead end last month when a consultant
advised that it would not be feasible for the Bird
Community Center in Uphams Corner to operate a
second center at 191-195 Bowdoin St. A meeting this
Monday will begin a discussion about what else can
be done there.
Bird Street was collaborating with the
Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation
(Dorchester Bay EDC) to turn the Bowdoin Street
site into a full-service community center with a
gymnasium, a fitness center, classrooms and more.
Things began falling apart when Federated
Dorchester Neighborhood Houses pulled out of a
three-way deal last year. Federated had planned to
move the Log School, currently across the street,
into the new facility.
Bird Street and Dorchester Bay EDC continued
with planning until last month, when a consultant
advised Bird Street that it would not be able to
double the amount of grants it receives in order to
operate the second center, particularly in current
economic conditions, said Dorchester Bay EDC
director Jeanne DuBois.
"Their feasibility plan stated that Bird
[Street] would be in a deficit every year,"
DuBois said, admitting that the delay in getting
the consultant's report was frustrating. "Had they
got that two years ago that would have been good to
know, but of course the funding climate was
Local activists such as Davida Andelman, who
also works for the Bowdoin Street Health Center,
shared that frustration.
"It's unfortunate that it took Bird Street all
this time to come up with that conclusive of an
answer," Andelman said. "This feasibility study was
supposed to be done a long time ago."
Another strain on finances would have been a
unique plan involving two buildings; one funded by
the George Robert White Fund and another from
different sources. That plan, though more
expensive, was intended to meet the White Fund's
requirement of funding only entire buildings.
Dorchester Bay EDC is demolishing the auto-body
shop at 195 Bowdoin this week using an EPA grant
and state Brownfields Redevelopment funds, and will
join a meeting at the Bowdoin Street Health Center
on Monday at 6:30 p.m. to start a community process
on what else might be built there. The EDC still
holds an option to buy the old gas station at 191
Bowdoin next door from the city's Department of
Neighborhood Development. DuBois said the developer
was still interested in combining the station with
the larger auto-body shop site.
"We bought that property to revitalize Bowdoin
Street and we're still going to do that," DuBois
Her plan is to begin a community process around
two sides of the issue, one would be how to work
more closely with the Holland Community Center and
the St. Peter's Teen Center to meet community
needs, and two, to see what remaining needs can be
met with something along the lines of a mixed-use
building that would include a smaller community
space at the 191-195 Bowdoin site.
"We've been at it a long time," she said. "I
think we should be proud of having stuck with it
and say, 'We tried, now let's move on to something
Andelman said she wasn't sure which way the
meeting would be likely to go.
"I guess there's some people that still want to
put pressure on the city to play a role on Bowdoin
Street," she said. "Others look to Dorchester Bay."
Andrea Kaiser, director of the Bird Street
Community Center, did not return a phone call for
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