Brighton Community Center Begins to Take Shape

August 3, 2010 : The Boston Globe, by Sydney Lupkin

More than five years after a Brighton parochial school closed, almost 100 officials, residents, and children gathered outside its archway yesterday to celebrate the building's imminent rebirth as a community center.

As he cut down balloons to pass out to the children, Jim Prince, president of the Presentation School Foundation, said that he, his father, and his three children all attended Our Lady of Presentation School, which was closed by the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005.

Work to convert the building into a community center should begin in a few weeks, and it is expected to open in January.

The center will offer day care, adult English as a second language instruction, and computer classes, Prince said.

The Presentation School Foundation, formed initially in an effort to keep Our Lady of Presentation open as a school, said yesterday that it had raised a final $100,000 to earn a $200,000 “challenge grant” from the New Balance Foundation to begin renovations. The foundation has also received donations from Harvard University, Boston College, and St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, and $400,000 from the city of Boston and $4 million in bond financing from the state agency MassDevelopment.

Overall, the project will cost about $6 million, which included the acquisition of the building in 2007, according to foundation spokesman Nathan Spencer.

Senator Steven Tolman, a Democrat from Brighton, said there were several times over the past five years, when the foundation worried it would not be able to secure funding.

“We just feel committed,” Tolman said in an interview. “This is a great project to enhance our community.”

Mayor Thomas M. Menino stood before a podium and a gaggle of children as he congratulated and thanked those involved in turning the old school into “an oasis of learning” once again.

Nancy DeRosa, 43, was the mother of two students at Our Lady of Presentation when she became a member of the foundation's board. Although a community center was “plan B,” DeRosa said, she was thrilled that the foundation was able to keep Brighton residents interested for five years.

Helen Jakubowski, 33, of Brighton said there are very few free or inexpensive resources for families with young children in the neighborhood. She was especially glad to hear it will be open seven days a week.

And Amie Searles, 40, of Allston said she hopes the community center will keep Allston-Brighton from being a transient place where people live for a few years before moving to Brookline or Newton.

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