CNC Backs Preservation Society’s Work With Charlestown Working Theatre

The Charlestown Neigh-borhood Council (CNC) backed a plan by the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) to work exclusively with the Charlestown Working Theatre to try to secure a Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant for the theatre’s Bunker Hill Street building.

The CNC met Tuesday night in an online and in-person meeting and heard a presentation from the CPS about their recent activities. One of the most pressing issues was getting support for an effort to work with the theatre on getting a CPA grant to rehabilitate the exterior of their building.

CPS President Amanda Zettel said the CPA has been a little bit of an unknown for Charlestown, as the first year of the process there were no applications from the Town and, thus, none of the money for community projects came to Charlestown. At that point, CPS and other partners began working together to coordinate and line-up projects so they were ready and able to get grant money – with about $28 million available citywide each year.

In helping to consult and provide seed money, the CPS has been able to help Memorial Hall, the Peace Park and the Kennedy Center in recent rounds to get substantial funding for their community projects.

Zettel said they have formulated a strategy to back one large project to make sure Charlestown gets its share of the funding, and has good projects with community support in the pipeline for every CPA funding round.

“Overall we’ve probably received $1.6 million in total,” Zettel said. “It’s very important for us to have these projects lined up so we make sure money comes back to Charlestown. We’re offering our full services to community organizations. If anyone can think of a project that could use help, let us know, even if it’s just with seed money or consulting. We are already working with the Charlestown Working Theatre for next year’s round.”

The Working Theatre has focused heavily on programming for adults and children for 40 years, and have been able to make improvements to the inside performing spaces at the building. However, Zettel said the theatre needs help working on the outside of the building. She said the brickwork needs repointing and the masonry is crumbling – as well as invasive vegetation that is ingrained in the façade. Meanwhile, the roof also needs attention, and the historic slate roof is far too expensive for the non-profit to fund on its own.

“This is an important building and on the National Register,” said Zettel. “Our strategy is if we go in with one good project from the neighborhood, it can go in and be more assured of getting funding for the project.”

The CNC gave its support to the effort with the theatre, and the CPS indicated they would be doing a conditions assessment on the theatre soon and helping to prepare the application for the next CPA round.

Cannot Support Current Mall Proposal

After a two-hour meeting with the CNC Development Committee, members of the CNC agreed on Tuesday night they cannot support the housing plan at 201 Rutherford Ave. brought by the owners of the Bunker Hill Mall.

Development Committee Chair Richard McCarthy said they had met with New England Development about the project last week, and came out of it seeing no material changes. Many on the CNC have stated the project is too big, and creates a wall rather than a gateway. Also, the low numbers of parking spaces dedicated to the 240-unit building has been a major issue as well.

“I am not anywhere near a comfort zone on this development,” said Chair Tom Cunha. “They took in a lot of info and didn’t push back to their credit. Now I want to see them come back and show us what they heard or learned. They haven’t made any changes…I don’t think we can support the development as proposed.”

Member JD Mangrum said with the current proposal, he doesn’t see a way forward.

“I don’t see a way forward on this,” he said. “When they came here it was like extortion. It’s their property and they say they will fix it up – their property – if we go along with this. I’m not going to bend.”

Member Jean Wilson said she had suggested that the height needed to come down to at least match the Gateway apartments next to the proposal.

“I simply said in the meeting that it was too big and to make it five or six stories like Gateway across the street,” she said. “They simply said that no, they couldn’t do that.”

Drafting a Letter on Special Townies

Chair Cunha reported and read a draft form of an official CNC letter that they plan to publish and send to Peabody Properties and the Mishawum Park Tenants Association (MPTA) regarding the Special Townies lease issue.

The organization presented its case to the CNC last month, but MPTA and Peabody did not choose to attend, though they were invited.

At the end of that passionate meeting, it was decided that the CNC would submit a letter calling for Special Townies to retain their current space.

“The CNC is in full support of Special Townies staying in their current space,” read the letter in part.

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