Teens help identify needs and wants in Codman Square business district

BOLD Teens Zaquarah Cadwell, Devon Johnson and Justin-Jabari Gichuru meeting with Councilor Brian Worrell on Aug. 3 at the Codman Square Library to discuss their assessment and survey. Photo provided by Cynthia Loesch-Johnson. 

This summer, the BOLD Teens of Dorchester have been researching what businesses exist in Codman Square and what residents in the community would like to see more of. 

According to the Boston Public Health Commission, families in this predominantly Black neighborhood suffer from asthma, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart and lung disease at a higher rate than the rest of the city of Boston. The BOLD Teens believe that the disproportionate distribution of tobacco permits and licenses to serve junk and fast food in Codman Square contributes to these health inequities.

Working closely with the Codman Square Neighborhood Council and their president Cynthia Loesch-Johnson— an advisor to the BOLD Teens— the group has helped to prevent an additional fast food chain, Popeyes, from opening in between two existing fast-food chains on Washington Street.  Loesch-Johnson is now working with the landlord of that site to hopefully bring in some diversity to the commercial district and better alternatives.    

The BOLD Teens are looking to better understand what residents of Codman Square desire in their community and to learn what money is being spent on outside of the neighborhood.  They have developed a survey and have been collecting responses this summer from families, youth, adults, seniors, et al., at community meetings such as the Codman Square Neighborhood Council and West of Washington meetings; Social Saturdays at the Codman Square Farmers Market held at the Codman Square Park; Friday Night Movie Nights held at Dr. Loesch Family Park; and at the BOLD Teens free Summer Meals distribution which takes place at the Codman Square Library on Tuesdays – Thursdays.

Justin-Jabari Gichuru – a BOLD Teen member—was among those who assessed the commercial spaces along Washington Street, Talbot Avenue, and Norfolk Street in Codman Square.  Many residents, he said, are frustrated to hear that there are 31 beauty, hair, nail or barber shops in the community or 19 convenience stores, and that families struggle to find a place to have a sit-down meal with their families. 

Of the 207 people who have responded to the survey so far, 70.5 percent say they want sit-down restaurants, 55.6 percent want coffee shops, 50.2 percent want cafes with more diverse food options, 55.6 percent want a bookstore, and 49.8 percent want an indoor kids play area.

The BOLD Teens are huge fans of Fresh Food Generation, which recently opened in Codman Square on Talbot Avenue. They recently enjoyed an event on its outdoor patio and appreciated its delicious, healthier food options.

The BOLD Teens have met with several landlords of commercial spaces and their brokers over the summer to learn more about the challenges of bringing in new businesses to Codman Square. 

The Codman Square Neighborhood Council intends to support the efforts of the BOLD Teens by coordinating a meeting with the landlords to share more about the advancements in the neighborhood such as the Codman Square Park capital plan, new developments, and the city resources available to commercial districts like the Square.  

Richard Scott is the coordinator of BOLD Teens. Kristina Pruitt is a teen member of the organization.

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