Director of Boston Community Preservation Christine Poff and East Boston’s Community Preservation Committee member Kannan Thiruvengadam hosted the first in a series of community meetings last Thursday evening at East Boston High School to start getting some ideas on how the Community Preservation funding should be spent in the community.
Last year Boston voters approved the Community Preservation Act. Boston joined 160 other cities and towns in Massachusetts that have already enacted a CPA.
The CPA statute allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Community preservation funds are raised locally, through a surcharge of the tax levy against real property of up to three percent.
To determine which projects will receive funding Boston had to create a Community Preservation Committee. Thiruvengadam and other members of the board will make recommendations on CPA projects to the City Council.
At last week’s meeting Poff said the Community Preservation department will host a series of forums citywide to begin the process of earmarking projects during the first round of funding that has become available through the CPA.
“Homeowners have been paying this surcharge so we want to start funding things that can happen right away,” said Poff. “We are looking for some ideas on improving parks, preserving some housing..the sort of things that are not necessarily big expensive items but can be done to start making community improvements that touch every neighborhood.”
Poff said the city has collected around $9 million since last July as part of the property tax surcharge and the Community Preservation plans to spend about $2 to $3 million during a ‘pilot’ round of spending this spring.
Poff said the pilot round will give her department and the committee members time to iron out any wrinkles in how the process works and moves forward for future rounds of funding.
The money collected by the city can be used to create parks and greenspace, preserve historic homes and create more affordable housing.
Some ideas from Eastie residents at last week’s meeting included creating an outdoor public swimming pool on the neighborhood’s waterfront like the Mirabella Pool in the North End.
Another suggestion was preserving the late Gene Sharp’s Cottage Street home. Sharp, whom many consider the authority on nonviolent resistance and ran the Einstein Institute in Eastie, was nominated four times for a Nobel Peace Prize. Sharp recently passed away and his home has been placed in a trust by the institute he ran for decades.
The idea was to turn the home into a museum and educational institute for the entire community to enjoy.
Others suggested rehabbing Prescott Square Park in Eagle Hill to mirror the rehabilitation of Putnam Square Park over a decade ago. Putnam Square Park’s rehab included brick sidewalks, period lighting, a huge fountain and a complete overhaul of the square’s park.