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Memorial site for youngsters targeted for housing

Jermaine Goffigan Park, overgrown with weeds, at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Quincy Street in Roxbury.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Jermaine Goffigan Park, overgrown with weeds, at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Quincy Street in Roxbury.

The vacant lot at the corner of Quincy Street and Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury does not look like much. A broken picket fence sags, and tall weeds wave in the spring breeze.

But a homemade sign lends an air of dignity and purpose to the lot. It reads Jermaine ­Goffigan Park. Goffigan, 9, was killed in 1994 when shots were fired into a crowd at the Academy Homes apartment complex.

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A proposal to build a mixed-use development, includ­ing some affordable housing, on the city-owned tract and adjacent property has alarmed some neighbors. They want Boston to preserve the park as a gathering spot for peace rallies, concerts, and other community events that honor those, like Goffigan, cut down by senseless street violence. In 2002, 10-year-old Trina Persad was fatally shot as she was leaving the park.

Several ideas have been proposed, including a peace wall and peace garden for at least a portion of the land, an idea that Mayor Thomas M. Menino has endorsed.

The grass-roots group Mothers for Justice and Equality has been especially vocal about preserving the entire space, which is not listed as an official city park, for the community to honor slain youths. Several members attended a recent public meeting to hear a developer provide details of its propsal.

“The mothers want a park for our community,” Dorothy Haskins, Goffigan’s grandmother and a member of Mothers for Justice, said at the meeting. “It’s time for us to heal.”

The plan is still in the early stages. The city has not officially given the green light to the developer, Community Builders Inc. Even then, the proposal would face several hurdles, including a public review process.

It is not the first time the city has entertained proposals for the property. The land was targeted for development at least several times in the past ­decade, but those plans were withdrawn or fell through, city officials say.

In the latest action, one year ago, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development sent out a request for proposals for the site and other city-owned properties that border it.

John Feuerbach, a senior development officer with the department, said Community Builders submitted the only suitable ­application.

Community Builders says its plan, on a combined 31,000 square feet, would breathe new life into the area.

The proposal includes 34 residential units, includ­ing some listed as affordable, as well as commercial space.

The plan would include a three-story apartment building on five city-owned parcels at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Quincy Street, with ground-floor retail space running along Blue Hill. In addition to the apartments, three-story town houses are proposed for Holborn Street on three separate city-owned lots.

The developer has said the plan would preserve some space for a memorial.

Neighborhood residents, includ­ing Goffigan’s family, have cited past pledges by Menino and other city officials to honor Jermaine’s memory on the plot.

John M. Guilfoil, a spokesman for the mayor, said Menino remains committed to a memorial space.

“The mayor is unwavering in his commitment to putting a peace wall and peace garden on the property, to honor and ­remember Jermaine Goffigan and all the young men we have lost due to violence,” Guilfoil said.

Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley, who sent an aide to the community meeting, said she is hopeful that “we can find a middle ground.”

“Certainly I’m a big supporter of affordable housing, but I ­also appreciate and recognize the need for us to honor our word and officially memorialize Jermaine Goffigan and others lost to violence,” Pressley said.

For many of the two dozen residents who attended the meeting, action is imperative.

“We have our kids dying ­because they have no place to go,” said LaRaye Myers, a member of Mothers for Justice, who suggested that the city build a community center.

“This corner should be designated to our young people and not a new apartment building.”

Roxbury resident Victoria Fernandes, 27, who was waiting for a bus near the park Friday morning, said she does not ­allow her young son to play in the park because of fears about violence.

“When it’s taken care of, I like having it, but it seems like it was just forgotten,” she said.

Patrick D. Rosso can be reached at patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com.
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