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Allston-Brighton’s only city-owned community center will relocate under new funding

In the years that lifelong Allston-Brighton resident Maria Tempesta has worked at the Jackson Mann Community Center, she remembers a time when the city of Boston provided the center with large amounts of funding for the afterschool programs she ran. 

The Jackson Mann school in Allston. $4.1 million has been allotted for the construction of a new Allston-Brighton community center following closure and relocation of the Jackson Mann Community Center. COURTESY OF KARYNA CHEUNG

During the mid-2000s, the Jackson Mann had homework assistance and enrichment activities for students “because parents needed it desperately,” Tempesta said.

But when Tempesta returned to the center in 2018 to serve as the council program manager, things started to change. When the COVID pandemic hit, Jackson Mann had to shut down. Tempesta said it could not reopen as quickly as other centers since it was located within a Boston Public School facility. 

“We had to let a lot of people go … we had to close the preschool program,” Tempesta said. “We would love to see infant and toddler care in the new community center in the future.”

In Mayor Wu’s new budget, Allston-Brighton has received the lowest allocations of the city’s proposed capital budget of any neighborhood in Boston. Allston-Brighton received $46.7 million for various projects, lagging far behind other neighborhoods.  

But a portion of that money will fund the construction of a brand-new community center to replace the Jackson Mann’s current building, a plan administrative coordinator Rosie Hanlon believes should be a “priority” to city leaders.

“We will be a standalone, full-service community center to the Allston-Brighton community,” Hanlon said. “It has been so long overdue … it was really not okay that we did not have this, but it is great that we are looking to bring this into the community now.”

The city has allocated $4.125 million to “develop [a] building program and assess siting options” for the new center in its recommended capital budget for 2025. These plans are “to be scheduled,” and Hanlon said there is no timeline yet on when they will begin.

In the interim, the center will temporarily relocate to Brighton High School, Hanlon said. While the Jackson Mann School closed in June 2022, the Horace Mann School remained and is set to relocate to Charlestown this fall. This will leave the original building empty for demolition, which Hanlon said is necessary after years of neglect. 

Jackson Mann Community Center opened its doors as the only city-run community center in Allston-Brighton in 1976, in the same building as the Jackson Mann School and the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Other neighborhoods in Boston with similar or lower population numbers have multiple city-run community centers in their area, including Charlestown, which has separated facilities for a community center, a pool and a senior center. 

Hanlon and Tempesta hope these amenities, along with several others like a gym, a childcare program and expanded adult education and teen programming, will all be incorporated into the new facility. 

They both hope the new space serves all residents, after the pandemic and lack of funding limited the center’s preschool, after-school and adult education programming. Hanlon said the center had to turn over space to the Jackson Mann School during COVID.

“We had to turn over our space, because they needed ample space to distance when they brought the kids back. So we had to literally close our preschool,” said Hanlon, who added, “our space will be our space” at Brighton High School. 

The Jackson Mann currently hosts a teen program during the day and an adult education program at night, which includes English classes as a second language, as well as athletics programs. Hanlon said the Jackson Mann’s council closed its preschool due to lack of resources, along with their school-age programs that used to cater to the Jackson Mann School. 

“We had to stop that once the school closed because we really didn’t have the flow of kids into the program,” Hanlon said. “Putting that on hold, it’s a real void for the community. To not have affordable childcare in the neighborhood is tough.”

While the exact timeline and outcome of the projects have not been developed, Hanlon and Tempesta both see a path forward towards their new community center. Between 2022 and 2023, residents were asked to share what features they wished to see in their new centers, which included a public garden and pool.

“We should be the nucleus of [our] community,” Hanlon said. “Every community in the city of Boston should have a thriving community center … It has to be.”

Tempesta was 23 years old when she started working at the Jackson Mann. Even as the center changes, she hoped that residents would still continue to seek them out in the time before the new community center is open.

“When we go to our interim site, we still are going to be offering important services,” Tempesta said. “Don’t forget about us, because we’ll be back and we’ll be back even better.”

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