City earmarks $34.9 million in CPA funds for local projects

One of the Dorchester projects awarded CPA funding is the planned restoration of a fountain in Coppens Square, located near St. Peter's Church on Bowdoin Street. Image courtesy Councillor Andrea Campbell's office

Eleven community preservation projects in Dorchester and Mattapan, ranging from new school playgrounds to urban farms, will receive funding from the city’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) fund, after the city council voted to pass the order today.

A total of $34,926,700 will be distributed to 56 projects of affordable housing, historic preservation, recreational use and open space. The ten affordable housing projects will receive $18 million.

“I’m excited to see how these projects improve our community for years to come, and look forward to continue engagement around community preservation projects,” said City Councillor Michael Flaherty, who led a hearing to review the chosen projects on Tuesday.

For many neighborhoods, the CPA grants, approved by Boston voters in the winter of 2016, give them a rare opportunity to fund long-deferred improvements to open spaces.

“It’s always been a dream for the community to have a park. We already had the idea, but we didn’t know how to pay for it,” said Laquisa Burke, president and founder of West of Washington Coalition (WOW), a community organization. After CPA was approved, she said, the coalition worked with the developer, the landowner, community organizations and the city to put together the proposal for a new park at Talbot Ave station, at the corner of Norwell and Park Street.

Burke said the $460,000 from the city will pay for the procurement of the land and the group will apply again for CPA next year while working with partners and raising funds through other sources.

Another new park planned to be built next to Lena Park’s affordable housing units will receive $600,000 and supply recreational and meeting space to the local people separated from Franklin Park by Blue Hill Ave, said Katherine Martinez, executive director of Lena Park CDC.

For tenants in the Pierce Building in Uphams Corner, a $500,000 CPA grant will bring a new look to the building as well as business opportunities. K. Leah Whiteside, the senior project manager of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, said plans to renovate the historic building have been in place for a couple of years. The grant brings them closer to the $15 million needed to fully renovate the building and construction could start this summer.

Dorchester Bay develops housing and provides small business loans to targeted neighborhoods. The Pierce Building is also home to Fairmount Innovation lab, an incubator for artists and entrepreneurs, most of whom are people of color and women. The two tenants of the building, Whiteside said, are expected to bring 25 new jobs.

Another renovation initiative will take place in Coppens Square— at the intersection of Bowdoin Street and Adams Street— where community advocates hope to restore a fountain. The $100,000 grant won’t fund the whole innovation project, which is estimated to cost $1.3 million, said Edward M. Cook, president of The Friends of Coppens Square. The organization will hire a landscape architect to form a more specific plan and keep on fundraising, he said.

The $600,000 grant designated for the Joseph Lee K-8 School will help the school build a new playground accessible to its 700 students, of whom 40 percent have special needs, especially autism, said Kim Crowley, the principal. She said she’s been trying to get funding for the playground for 13 years.

The support from the preservation fund will also add to the bloom of a fruit garden on Geneva Ave near Fields Corner.

“I grew up in Dorchester. We used to have fruit trees, grapes and cherries and the likes for our picking. That’s why I had the idea of planting more fruits,” Judith Foster, founder of H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center said.

The H.E.R.O. Hope Garden, formerly a triangular lot where people walked through for shortcut, now has fruit trees, an arbor and space for sitting. The new grant will expand the garden, and the people behind the project, the Farmers Collaborative, hope to transform the land into a community space with a greenhouse, outdoor patio and other attractions for the community.

CJ Jean Valerus, a local designer, said the garden would be used for year-round growing with urban farming technology.

“Open space and affordable housing are not in conflict with each other. They mutually exist and support life in the city, and I’m really grateful that open space is being supported,” said Orion Kriegman, executive director of the Boston Food Forest Coaltion, a part of the Farmers Collaborative.

Other projects include renovating Garvey Playground with a dog park, a new park in the center of Grove Hall, 40 units of mixed-income housing in Mattapan, renovation of the field and track in Norfolk Park and an urban farm on Flint Street to provide healthy and fresh food to Mattapan residents.