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.