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Jackson Square development project picking up steam

With the recession behind them, Jackson Square developers ramp up efforts to reunite communities and turn area into a modern gateway

A portion of the massive $250 million Jackson Square project rises at the corner of Centre Street and Columbus Avenue.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A portion of the massive $250 million Jackson Square project rises at the corner of Centre Street and Columbus Avenue.

In the next few months, Jackson Square will start to feel a lot more like, well . . . an actual square.

For decades, the intersection of Centre Street and Columbus Avenue was a broad, barren border between Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. But this summer, construction will begin on the second new residential building in a massive complex that promises to infuse new life into the area.

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“In three years, nobody is going to recognize Jackson Square,” said Chrystal Kornegay, chief executive of Urban Edge, a nonprofit that is co-developing the property. “It’s going to be a whole different place, and the community should feel really proud that it stuck with this vision.”

The $250 million effort to transform the site was put on hold during the recent economic downturn. But construction began last year on a new building at 225 Centre St., and Governor Deval Patrick’s administration recently committed nearly $4 million in grants and other funding to help get a second phase of work underway this summer.

Overall, the Jackson Square project includes 14 buildings with 425 residences, more than 60,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and a recreation complex with a skating rink and an indoor turf field.

The homes will be a mix of affordable and market-rate units, with several apartments to be set aside for homeless individuals and families.

The project will help to reunite Roxbury and Jamaica Plain after the neighborhoods were severed in the 1960s by demolition for the ill-fated inner-belt highway, which ran into strong community opposition and was never constructed.

Several businesses and homes in the area were bulldozed, creating something of a no-man’s land between the communities.

Columbus Avenue has since turned into a high-traffic speedway, offering passersby little opportunity, or reason, to stop.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration has committed about $2.5 million to help redevelop Jackson Square into a modern gateway for the area.

Part of that funding will be used to build a landscaped median that will slow traffic and encourage people to linger in the area’s stores and civic spaces.

“This project will provide critical retail, as well as a nice mix of market-rate and affordable housing,” said Sheila Dillon, chief of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. “We’re very excited to see the progress.”

Just down the street from Jackson Square, developers are planning additional homes on the former Blessed Sacrament Church property.

And the city is also proceeding with the construction of municipal offices and stores in Dudley Square.

The next phase of work at Jackson Square will include 37 new apartments and 12,000 square feet of office, retail, and civic space. That complex will involve the rehabilitation of the Webb building at 1542 Columbus Ave., and new construction on a vacant lot next door. The work is expected to begin by August.

“We hope Jackson Square becomes a destination,” said Kornegay. “We want it to be a place for dining and general shopping and recreation. All the time that people invested is really beginning to pay off.”

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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