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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Past Forward: A Beloved Library Gets a New Life for Future Generations

Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Mattapan Teen Center

October 15th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part six of a series of posts that provides a behind-the-scenes look into each of the ten projects that will be honored at the Boston Preservation Alliance’s 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards.

Mattapan Teen Center - B&G Club_7

Before the Mattapan Teen Center was acquired by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB), the building served as a library for more than 75 years and played a major role in the surrounding community. After a new library was constructed in 2009, the building remained vacant. Rather than cast aside the historic building, the City of Boston chose a more environmentally, socially and economical sensitive approach – and sold the building to BGCB for one dollar.

From the outset, the project was different than BGCB’s other converted facilities, which are generally designed to serve children and teens within the same space. The Mattapan Teen Center was designed to serve teens only, which allowed for a more tailored approach when it came time to plan the building’s conversion. “It afforded the project team greater ability to speak to a more mature audience architecturally and allowed for a more open floor plan,” explained Mark Rosenshein of The Architectural Team, the project’s architects. “The goal was to get teens into the door, let them see what the Center had to offer, and let the building be a large part of the introduction to the club.”

BGCB Before

BGCB After

The blending of modern and historic is evident throughout the building, where soaring ceilings, arched windows and ornate columns mix with modern elements including a computer lab, a community theater and a recording studio. That the historic columns, molding and window panes are a gleaming white against a backdrop of brightly colored walls is no coincidence: “We wanted to let the historic components speak for themselves, while acknowledge that we’ve injected contemporary elements into the space. Part of the project was trying to express the building’s distinctive characteristics to a mature audience and to showcase what is and what is not historic,” Mark noted.

Mattapan Teen Center - B&G Club (24)

Like the Parish of All Saints, the Mattapan Teen Center conversion demonstrates how the positive impacts of historic preservation are amplified when combined with neighborhood engagement. During the planning phases of the project, BGCB and its project team had entered into dialogue with the nearby residents and explored options around how historic materials and elements could be maintained, and to what extent the completed Teen Center would resemble the historic library. Neighbors expressed how important the library was to their past, citing specific childhood memories of their time in that building. Further indicating the scope of community involvement was 85% utilization of local and minority-owned businesses reported by BGCB.

Currently, the Mattapan Teen Center has 170 members. BGCB’s Nicholas President and CEO, Josh Kraft, noted the benefit of reusing a historic property to serve future generations. “The transformation of the abandoned property into a dynamic, state-of-the-art space for youth has benefited the surrounding neighborhood by bringing it back to life to serve the community for generations to come,” she said. Here’s to a conversion project that shows how the reuse of historic buildings benefits the environment and those who use the building, while simultaneously preserving the existing character of the community.

For additional information about the Mattapan Teen Center, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

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