The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the Martin Richard Foundation on Wednesday filed detailed plans with the city for a $50 million fieldhouse on Mount Vernon Street, in the Columbia Point section of Dorchester.
The 75,000-square-foot facility would include indoor playing fields and courts, fitness rooms, and a theater, as well as a cafe with outdoor seating and “the only ‘front yard’ along Mount Vernon Street,” part of an effort to turn this stretch of roadway into what the organization described as a “destination location.”
It’s an ambitious plan that aims to broaden the reach of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said CEO Bob Scannell.
“Today, we must look to the future and how we will continue to meet the changing needs of our community,” he said. “Now is the time for a significant generational investment that will be a transformational event for the city and our kids.”
The location, the nonprofit notes, is surrounded by schools — from Boston Public Schools’ McCormack and Dever schools, to a new campus for Boston Community Leadership Academy, to nearby Boston College High School and University of Massachusetts Boston — and it would be across the street from Harbor Point. In all, some 50,000 kids live within three miles, the Boys & Girls Clubs notes.
“This unique facility will engage Boston’s young people in activities beyond just athletics and offer a unified space for kids from different schools, neighborhoods, cultures and backgrounds to gather, compete and explore together in a safe, engaging environment,” the Boys & Girls Clubs said in a statement.
The complex would be on 2.5-acres of fields owned by Boston Public Schools, which awarded the project a long-term lease last March after a competitive bidding process. That move faced significant oppositionfrom some Harbor Point residents and from parents and teachers at McCormack School next door, concerned about the loss of outdoor green space in the neighborhood. Among those who spoke up against leasing the fields was then-city councilor, now-Mayor Michelle Wu. The Boston School Committee ultimately voted 3-2, with two abstentions, to approve the lease.
The project would be paid for largely through private fund-raising, though developers say they may explore some public funding as well. The Martin Richard Foundation, named for the 8-year-old Dorchester boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon Bombing, would help raise money for the project, and co-founder Bill Richard said it’s exactly the sort of facility Boston, and Dorchester, need.
“This facility is uniquely designed to meet the next generation of students; located intentionally to attract and impact kids most in need and programmed with elements that allow for a forward-thinking, regenerative approach to sustainability, health, wellness, and culture for all kids of all abilities,” Richard said. “I am excited for the future for our kids and hopeful this facility will be a space that propels their imagination and talent to lead our city forward.”
Wednesday’s filing with the Boston Planning & Development Agency will kick off a formal city review of the project, which sits in a part of Dorchester that is rapidly being redeveloped, between improvements at UMass-Boston and the enormous Dorchester Bay City project being planned on the site of the old Bayside Expo Center.
Advocates note that Boston has seen its population of children decline in recent years, even as the city as a whole has grown, and too little of the new development has much in the way of amenities for children or families. They hope that a project like this can help reverse that trend.
The organizers are hoping to open the fieldhouse in the spring of 2023, in line with the 10th anniversary of the Marathon bombing.