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South End community center comes down to make way for condos

Harriet Tubman House Demolished for Luxury Condos!

An opponent of the Harriet Tubman House's demolition posted this video yesterday of the work now going on to replace the former community center at Columbus and Massachusetts avenues with a six-story condo building.

United South End Settlements sold the building, erected in the 1970s to New Boston Ventures, which plans 66 condos - 11 for artists - and some community space. USES says it will use money from the sale to renovate another building it owns on Rutland Street and continue its programs - a bone of contention for detractors, who say the group let the building deteriorate to sell it off.

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Since the 1970s Boston’s Harriet Tubman House has been a vital community resource offering programs to the city’s most vulnerable residents, along with public events, art exhibitions, and much more. The land where the House sits was granted to United South End Settlements (USES) as remediation for the crimes of Urban Renewal (Removal), particularly against Black Bostonians who lived for generations in the South End.

Unfortunately, since 2015 the new administration at USES deliberately let the House deteriorate to justify selling the asset (for $13.25 million to luxury condo developer New Boston Ventures in October 2020). USES refused to fundraise for the House, even eliminating income from Zipcar and an ATM branch, and cut all programs for adults, including seniors, while spending down their endowment and generously compensating their leadership team. USES also hired a PR firm to spin and exaggerate their self-inflicted plight. However, examination of tax records tells a different story.

Instead of selling to a for-profit developer, USES could have sold the House to another nonprofit to keep this asset in 100% community hands, and in fact had bids that would have accomplished that aim AND would have paid USES MORE than the condo developer. Why didn’t USES choose the morally correct path?

Examining www.ocpf.us reveals that most elected officials received many thousands of dollars from the developer's principals and associates. After that, these officials either remained silent in the face of protest or endorsed the condo plans. This is the definition of “quid pro quo”. In fact, Mayor Walsh's Chief of Staff (since March 2020) came directly from the developer, New Boston Ventures, as their director of operations (also contributing money to her future boss).

On December 12, 2019, the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) lifted Urban Renewal restrictions on the property to permit the House's demolishment, AND will earn millions of dollars since the Agency receives 4% of each condo sale (and 2% of re-sales). Clearly, the BPDA was looking out for its own interests, NOT those of the community.

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Voting closed 7

South End has changed a bit, you know just a little bit from the days when SRV was a place that sold Malcolm X hats and Free Mike Tyson t-shirts.

That being said. I always thought this building was one of the better looking 1970's buildings in the city. It did not try to overwhelm is surroundings and fit into the streetscape.

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Voting closed 25

Disturbing how black peoples are just supposed to-expected to accept having virtually no control over where they would like live, where they have recreation, where they find community. Black institutions are seen as fleeting and disposable and therefore never should be taken seriously or respected as much as storied white institutions and traditions. Particularly in Boston.

USES sells because they have to and that’s usually the case with businesses and institutions within the black community, due to historic and structural capital/economic racism. It’s like we all say “oh well you know the drill, blacks-sorry” and just keep it pushing and just keep pushing them wherever is most convenient for white people at the moment.

And after all Black Americans have been through and continue to go through...disturbing.

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I wish them luck

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I used to go there when I was little. They let the building fall apart so greed could kick in and it did. Sad legacy gone for no reason except for monetary gain.

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Voting closed 13

ugh.

we need more community centers and less overpriced condos.

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This building was reparations from the city to the neighborhood for the damage inflicted before the Southwest Corridor I-95 project was canceled. Unfortunately, it was deeded to USES rather than a real estate trust, and USES acted like the building was theirs and not the neighborhood's.

USES can say whatever they want about their services, but Rutland St. is not in this neighborhood and the building was supposed to benefit the people, not the USES organization. They cashed in a public resource and are taking the money out of the neighborhood, to spend on a leafy green Victorian South End side street.

Maybe the new building will be well-built and a true asset to the neighborhood. Maybe New Boston Ventures will make good on all their promises, and actually open the "social enterprise cafe", and actually keep 11 units for artists instead of sitting on them for a year or so then converting them to market-rate condos with some flimsy excuse about "there wasn't demand". Maybe. But even in that ideal future, what's already happened with this building is a betrayal of the neighborhood by the City of Boston (which waived all deed restrictions to enable the sale without providing public notice) and USES.

Pay attention to the public assets in your neighborhood. They may be at more risk than you think, and if nobody is watching, this could happen to you, too.

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Voting closed 13