People dance on the street in Boston's Latin Quarter. Men in matching teal tees and black hats dance behind the first row of people.

Jamaica Plain, MA

Contact Name
Kenneth Tangvik
Project Dates
July 2015 - ongoing
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2017
Located on in the Hyde/Jackson Square area of Jamaica Plain, Boston’s Latin Quarter is a neighborhood revitalization project that aims to use the richness of Latino and Afro-Latino arts to create cultural and economic vibrancy. The Latin Quarter has a 60-year history of Latino immigration and 65% of the local businesses are immigrant-owned. This initiative supports local businesses through increasing foot traffic and through one-to-one consulting. The vision of the Latin Quarter is to be: the hub of Afro-Latin Arts in Greater Boston; a place for public art and lively street cultural events that enhance local businesses; and a stimulating destination place for local residents and tourists where all feel welcome, energized and engaged.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The goals of this project are:

• Creating a Latin Quarter brand that will give the Hyde/Jackson neighborhood an identity and attract visitors/tourists

• The renovation of the former Cheverus School on the Blessed Sacrament Campus into a center for creative youth development that serves over 1,200 youth per year in Afro-Latin arts college success, and civic engagement programs.

• Promoting Afro-Latin cultural offerings in the Latin Quarter that bring together residents and visitors

• Attracting Afro-Latin artists, cultural entrepreneurs and new businesses

• Supporting the development and success of the local business district

• Redeveloping of the historic Blessed Sacrament Church

• Advocating for public and private resources that enhance the Latin Quarter

• Advocating for and implementing public art projects

The challenge was to revitalize, culturally and economically, this Jamaica Plain neighborhood while enhancing the neighborhood’s identity and brand. The major opportunities that formed the foundation of this project are: the 60-year history of Latino immigration, the Blessed Sacrament Campus, Hyde Square Task Force’s experience in create youth development, a network of Afro-Latin artists, and a small business community that is 65% immigrant-owned.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals have basically stayed the same. However, the development of the Blessed Sacrament Church has taken more time than we anticipated and we are only in the early stages of that process. We have had extensive community input into the development of the building, but we are just beginning to have serious talks with potential developers about the church becoming an arts and cultural center that will be the anchor for the Latin Quarter.

Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF), a community-based non-profit, is the lead partner with a 25-year history of integrating creative youth development with community development and civic engagement.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, which has the role of training small business owners in marketing strategies.

Jackson Square Partners is a collaboration of JPNDC, Urban Edge, The Community Builders and Hyde Square Task Force) which oversees the $250 million Jackson Square Transit-Oriented development on the border of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

Berklee College of Music, which collaborated with HSTF through their Tito Puerto Latin Music Series in which we organized large outdoor public Latin music concerts/dances.

The City of Boston, which is working with HSTF on public arts projects and has agreed to be the applicant to the Massachusetts Cultural Council so that the Latin Quarter will be a Massachusetts Cultural District.

Jamaica Plain Artist Association, which has integrated our teens in public arts projects.

Jamaica Plain Open Studios, of which we were a co-sponsor and a host site.

The Jamaica Plain Arts and Civic Center (JPACC), the owner of the former Blessed Sacrament Church, where dozens of our cultural activities are held.

Double Edge Theatre, which integrated 50 HSTF teens into a two- night performance which drew over 1,000 audience members.

The Connolly Branch Library which co-sponsors many family-friendly cultural events.

The Jamaica Plain Arborway Committee, which is working towards a “Boston Latin Quarter” T stop on the Green-line.

JP Porchfest has been a partner, as the Blessed Sacrament Campus is a site

Members of the Hyde-Jackson Business Association, who have been active in advocating for Boston’s Latin Quarter and involved in public arts projects.

How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Over the past 60 years, waves of immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Central and South America have landed in the Hyde-Jackson neighborhood of Jamaica Plain seeking new opportunities. In the late 1980’s the area was described by Boston Police as the “cocaine capital of New England,” rife with disinvestment, crime, drugs and violence. But over the past 25 years the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) has taken the lead in a mobilization to transform this neighborhood into a bustling business and cultural district.

Just as Boston has an Italian North End, a Chinatown, the Dudley area, rich in African-American culture, and an Irish South Boston, the time has come for a vibrant Latin Quarter. Since 1990, the number of Latinos in Boston has increased by more than 74%. In Massachusetts, the Latino population increased by 46% between 2000 and 2010. The U.S. Census predicts that by 2060, Latinos will comprise over 34% of the total U.S. population.

An important aspect of this project is to develop the Latin Quarter so it celebrates, promotes and preserves Afro-Latin arts thereby creating a vibrant destination place for residents of Greater Boston and beyond.

In addition, we want to preserve the diversity of the neighborhood at a time when the real estate market is forcing many long-term residents to move out. Therefore, Hyde Square Task Force is very much involved in advocating for expanding the number of affordable units in the area. Through working with local CDCs we have been very successful in the area.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Most of our major cultural events took place on the plaza in front of the Blessed Sacrament church. This is an architectural icon in the neighborhood with a 100-year history of being a place where people gather. Charles R. Greco (1892–1963) designed Blessed Sacrament in a Latin cross plan with an octagonal belvedere dome ninety feet high, which has since been a landmark in Jamaica Plain. The building is approximately a half acre in size and is distinguished by one of the greatest church facades in Boston, which includes an entrance porch of two monumental Ionic columns sixty feet high supporting a pedimented attic. Originally, fifteen magnificent stained-glass windows were designed and made by the Boston master glass artisan Charles Connick.
In 1983 Edward Gordon wrote Blessed Sacrament is “a superb example of early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival ecclesiastical architecture . . . the finest in Boston” on an inventory form for the Boston Landmarks Commission.
Over the past century many waves of immigrants settled into the Hyde-Jackson Square area and the Blessed Sacrament Church was the center of social, cultural and spiritual activities. The area in front of and beside the Church resembles a typical Latin American urban plaza that is ideal for concerts, dance performances, outdoor theater, public Zumba, etc.

Another special place in the neighborhood is Mozart Park, where there is a major piece of public art that celebrates the struggles and contributions of immigrants in the local community. Several of our large cultural events took place in this park.

Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
A committee of teens, local artists, business owners and residents to plan the range of activities including:

Organizing over 45 mostly outdoor cultural events with a variety of local artists and organizations.

Working with local businesses so they could take advantage of the significant increase in foot traffic during events.

Offering personalized marketing strategy support to individual small businesses.

Engaging over 200 community youth, residents and stakeholder in creating a vision for the Blessed Sacrament Church as an arts and cultural center.

Working with the Boston City Council and the Mayor to pass legislation that designated the neighborhood officially as “Boston Latin Quarter.”

Sponsoring major cultural events with Berklee College of Music, Double Edge Theatre and JP Open Studios.

Working on three public arts projects with local artists and the City of Boston.

Conducting a capital campaign for the renovation of the Cheverus Building on the Blessed Sacrament Campus.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
We have realized that the public arts projects require a long, refined and detailed process involving city officials, artists, community organizations and local businesses.

Providing support to local businesses has also been refined as we have gone from a workshop model to a one-to-one consulting model.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
One obstacle we found was that it was difficult to get high attendance at workshops we were providing to the local business owners due to the variance in their schedules

Another obstacle was moving forward in the redevelopment of the Blessed Sacrament Church. The main obstacle is that the building needs $10 - $12 million to be brought up to code.

The third obstacle is finding long-term funding for this project. We received a $200,000 Arts Place America grant for an 18-month period which just ended. Now we have the challenge of providing sustained cultural offerings to the community and support for local businesses.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation was instrumental in the obstacle related to the low attendance at small business workshops. The solution was to provide one-to-one consulting with individual small business owners and this has proved to be very successful.

In regards to the obstacle related to the Blessed Sacrament Church, we are soliciting proposals from developers for feasible plans.

We have not yet overcome the obstacle for long-term funding to sustain a large number of outdoor cultural offerings through-out the year. We are currently seeking new sources of funding and prioritizing the events that we have the capacity to organize.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
To build a strong local constituency of residents, business owners and artists
To involve teens in the project
To advocate for municipal, state and federal support and seek long-term funding
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The Hyde Square Task Force has formed strong relationships with dozens of artists, particularly local Afro-Latin artists. These partnerships are already bearing fruit in the development of youth arts programs and projects.

The Hyde Square Task Force was successful in completing a $2.5 million renovation project in the Cheverus Building on the Blessed Sacrament Campus, the now has state-of-the art programming space for youth programs in theatre, music and dance.

Three public arts projects with Latin American themes have been funded are in the process of being implemented

The Boston City Council and the Mayor of Boston have officially designated the neighborhood as Boston’s Latin Quarter

The City of Boston has agreed to be the lead applicant to the Massachusetts Cultural council to designate the Latin Quarter as a Massachusetts Cultural District and the City has asked Hyde Square Task Force to be the managing partner of this district.

We have anecdotal evidence that local businesses have benefited by increased foot traffic and the one-to-one consulting.

Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We consider the project successful because we have achieved many of our original goals. The two main components that we need to focus on are: long-term funding and the redevelopment of the Blessed Sacrament Church

We have established some keystone annual events which include: a Halloween Celebration, Three Kings Day Celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, a Youth Arts Showcase in the Spring of each year and a summer concert in collaboration with Berklee College of Music’s Tito Puente Latin Music Series.
How did you measure this success or progress?
So far we have measured success through collecting some basic quantitative date such as: in the past 18 months we have engaged over 4,000 community members who have attended our cultural offerings. We have worked with 365 artists who either performed and/or displayed their arts, or taught workshops to youth and community members. Twenty-five local businesses have been involved in sponsoring/supporting cultural events and in receiving business development support.

Three Latin-themed arts projects are in the pipeline.

We also measure success in the number of affordable units of housing in the Latin Quarter that are in the pipeline, which is currently over 500.

We have a lot of anecdotal evidence concerning the increase in local businesses over the past 18 months. We hope to have more long-term quantitative data on this in the future.

Please describe any unexpected impacts:
One positive unexpected impact was a very successful partnership with Double Edge Theatre. After hearing about our vision of a vibrant Latin Quarter, Double Edge approached Hyde Square Task Force in 2015 to propose a partnership in producing a “Latin American Spectacle” in the Latin Quarter in May of 2016. Through this partnership, over 50 of HSTF teen emerging artists were incorporated into the production which drew an audience of over 1,000 people over two nights. This event inspired all those who attended, brought major media attention to the Latin Quarter and provided a model of how to incorporate teen artists into a professional production.

CCX Workshop Handout