North End seeks land­mark life­line

Lo­cals want Naz­zaro cen­ter safe from devel­op­ment

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By BROOKS SUTHER­LAND

North End res­i­dents are push­ing for land­mark sta­tus for the beloved Naz­zaro Com­mu­nity Cen­ter — a for­mer bath house and haven for im­mi­grants that later turned into a youth and fam­i­lies cen­ter — af­ter a devel­op­ment scare that didn’t end un­til the mayor him­self spoke up to say the city had no plans to sell the build­ing.

“The goal of land­mark­ing the build­ing is to en­sure that it’s pre­served, no mat­ter who’s in of­fice,” said Kirsten Hoffman, a North End res­i­dent and mem­ber of the Save the Naz­zaro Coali­tion. “And no mat­ter what the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is, we think that this is a build­ing that’s wor­thy of longterm preser­va­tion.”

“I never ever said that we’re sell­ing the Naz­zaro Cen­ter build­ing prop­erty,” Bos­ton Mayor Martin J. Walsh as­sured res­i­dents in an in­ter­view with NorthEndWater­front.com. “We’re not in the habit of sell­ing our prop­erty, at least un­der my ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

On Tues­day, the build­ing will have a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing in front of the Land­marks Com­mis­sion. Hoffman, who is a part of the com­mis­sion her­self, said North End res­i­dents are tied to the build­ing, and hope to erase any chance of re­mov­ing it in the fu­ture.

“It’s much more than the his­tory be­hind it,” she said. “It was a bath­house in the early 1900s, but it was ac­tu­ally used as a bath­house un­til the 70s. So a lot of the neigh­bors, who have lived in this neigh­bor­hood for a long time re­mem­ber us­ing the build­ing as a bath­house them­selves. Or their par­ents or grand­par­ents used it. A lot of peo­ple have very fond mem­o­ries of this build­ing.”

Rose­mary McAuliffe, 91, an­other res­i­dent nearby the cen­ter on North Bennet Street, agrees.

“We want to save the Naz­zaro Cen­ter,” she said. “It’s so use­ful. So many or­ga­ni­za­tions use it and it’s so ac­ces­si­ble. And maybe the in­te­rior could be up­graded a bit, but why can’t we just do that?”

Res­i­dents first be­came con­cerned about the cen­ter’s fu­ture fol­low­ing a city meet­ing with con­sul­tants last Oc­to­ber where the idea of sell­ing the cen­ter was floated as an op­tion in re­sponse to its lim­ited space and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. The build­ing was also ap­praised, fur­ther wor­ry­ing lo­cals.

“This is sort of a per­sonal thing hap­pen­ing,” said Pam Don­naruma, the pub­lisher of the Post Gazette, which op­er­ates on Prince St. in the North End. “They keep chip­ping away and tak­ing things away. We want to keep the North End the way it is — a neigh­bor­hood.”

Walsh has com­mit­ted to ren­o­vat­ing and ex­pand­ing the Naz­zarro Cen­ter at its ex­ist­ing site, or mov­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to an­other lo­ca­tion which could in­volve build­ing a new fa­cil­ity. The city be­gan look­ing at op­tions in 2017 and is has nar­rowed down the op­tions to three po­ten­tial sites: the ex­ist­ing Naz­zaro Cen­ter, the Mirabella Pool site and the Sar­gent’s Wharf site.

Walsh said the goal would be to have a com­mu­nity cen­ter with about 41,000 square feet avail­able about dou­ble the space avail­able at the Naz­zaro Cen­ter cur­rently. The re­sult, Walsh said, is groups of­ten have to meet in the hall­ways and a lack of ded­i­cated space for teens or se­niors.

“That’s why reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to the cen­ter have asked me to ex­plore op­tions for ren­o­vat­ing or re­lo­cat­ing the cen­ter to house a big­ger space and ex­panded pro­gram­ming,” he wrote in a col­umn in NorthEndWater­front.com.

“I cer­tainly don’t want to see it de­mol­ished or sold,” added North End res­i­dent Chapin Mechem.

On Sun­day, Walsh de­clined to com­ment on whether he sup­ports a land­mark sta­tus for the build­ing while it goes through the process with the com­mis­sion.

PIECE OF HIS­TORY: A plaque ded­i­cated to Fer­di­nand Carangelo near the en­trance of the Naz­zaro Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, which was a bath­house for the com­mu­nity from the early 1900s through the ’70s, ac­cord­ing to Hoffman.

MARY SCHWALM PHO­TOS / HER­ALD STAFF

RES­I­DENTS’ RALLY: Kirsten Hoffman, a North End res­i­dent and mem­ber of the Save the Naz­zaro Coali­tion, is hop­ing the Naz­zaro Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in North End, below left, is land­marked to pro­tect it from devel­op­ment in­quiries.

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