By John Lynds
There has been long standing concern in East Boston over large properties in the neighborhood whose original use has been surrendered and are left vacant for years.
In Eastie plans to redevelop these properties have been slow moving like the Welfare Building on Maverick Street, the former Salesians Boys and Girls Club on Paris Street, the former Savio High School and other large parcels.
Now there is cause for greater concern in this soft real estate market as the City of Boston prepares to abandon two other large properties in Eastie.
Soon, the Boston Public Schools will merge the Dante Alighieri School on Gove Street with the Mario Umana Middle School Academy, leaving the huge Alighieri building vacant. Also, the city plans on closing the Orient Heights Branch Library and merging its programs with the Meridian Street branch until a new library in constructed in Eastie on the Bremen Street Park.
While some would like to see a quick development of the site into another community the city said it would not like to see it go to a private developer.
With the Alighieri slated for closure at the close of the school year, BPS officials said it and other schools closing across the city will not be turned over to private developers.
While there is no immediate plans for the school communications officer BPS’s Lee McGuire went on the record saying the Alighieri and other BPS buildings would not go to private developers.
“They wouldn’t turn into condos or anything like that,” he said.
McGuire said there is no process in place for deciding the fate of schools like the Alighieri and that BPS would not start any process until the buildings are empty, after the end of the current school year.
McGuire said while the buildings belong to the city, BPS has priority use.
“We would look at our needs as a system,” said McGuire. “The first option would be for BPS to re-use the buildings as possible future schools or to adapt them into community centers.”
If BPS cannot find uses for the buildings, the city would then have its say—but private developers will be left out of the loop according to McGuire.
As for the soon-to-be vacant Orient Heights Branch, Mayor Thomas Menino was told of the community’s concern of having another ‘vacant’ building in a neighborhood that already plays host to several large vacant structures. Residents are concerned that these large parcels have sat dormant for years and are blights in the neighborhood and that adding a school and library to the mix may worsen the situation.
“We will form a working committee and will strive for a quick and transparent process to fill that space with a use the entire neighborhood can agree upon,” said Menino.