Charlestown Organizations, Residents Getting on Board with CPA

Earlier this year, some $20 million came knocking at the door of the Town, but surprisingly, no one answered the bell.

That large bundle of cash came from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) that was ushered in over the past 12 months following approval on the November 2017 citywide ballot – with millions of dollars from first distribution going to organizations all over the city.

With the exception of Charlestown, which had no applications in the opening round of the CPA funding.

Director Christine Poff said they were surprised that Charlestown didn’t apply for any funding, which can be used for historic preservation, open space or affordable housing. However, since the opening awards were announced last month, she has been working in Charlestown and meeting with organizations and residents to drum up interest in the annual giveaway.

Already, they have had one meeting last month with about 30 people, and they will have another at St. Francis Church on Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. The only other neighborhood besides Charlestown that didn’t have an application was Mattapan.

“We’re pretty excited about how things have been going in meeting with a lot of groups in Charlestown over the last month,” she said. “After there weren’t any applications here, we came out to meet with people in the Town and let them know what CPA is, that it is an option for them and that it’s available for them.”

The second round of funding grants is about to begin, and applications will become available on Aug. 15. They will be due by Sept. 28.

Poff said she sees a lot of possibilities in Charlestown for CPA funding, and said the misnomer that CPA is only for other parts of Boston isn’t true.

“I think in Charlestown I’ve specifically been hearing about Memorial Hall,” she said. “It’s a beautiful old building that needs financial support and restoration. A volunteer committee has worked very, very hard…and they could benefit from CPA. There’s a very interesting proposal to light the statue on the Training Field too. There have been some neighborhood people particularly interested in affordable housing. There is the One Charlestown development that could have more affordable housing with these funds. One particular concern is the lack of playing fields for athletics. The Charlestown youth sports leagues have been supporting other neighborhoods. That’s putting pressure on the playing field space. There is some interest in looking at creating more fields. People could start to think about historic properties and open space areas where new playing fields and recreational facilities could also be created.”

One caveat with playing fields, however, is the original state law governing CPA bars anyone from using the money to build turf fields. Poff said that’s probably because when CPA came into existence some years ago, turf fields were less environmentally friendly. Now, however, they are very common and essential for keeping regular athletic schedules in the unpredictable New England climate. She said many CPA communities are talking about lobbying state lawmakers to change that provision.

There are also no indoor recreational facilities allowed, such as an indoor gym or swimming pool.

The funding is available for non-profits, for profit entities, public agencies or even groups of residents banding together on an issue.

She said in some cases, public agencies have acted as the go-between for groups of concerned residents. In one case in another part of the city, Boston Public Schools accepted the money to build a playground that neighbors really wanted.

Such things could be recreated in Charlestown too, she said.

One thing is certain, the amount of money isn’t getting smaller. In fact, Poff said from here on out they expect at least $20 million per year to distribute to those who have applied. Applications are reviewed by the CPA committee, and then are forwarded to the mayor, and finally approved by the City Council.

“This $20 million will just keep growing every year,” she said. “It’s about $20-22 million each year, we anticipate. We really do expect it to grow as well.”

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