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Roxbury comprehensive health center to become charter school

Jule Pattison-Gordon

A project to turn the former Roxbury Comprehensive Health Center into the Bridge Boston Charter School site holds the promise of a permanent home for the school and easy access for students, while raising residents’ worries of a traffic headache.

The BBCS’s plans, currently under review with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, call for renovating the 36,000 square-foot health center building. An adjacent residential building is scheduled to be demolished to make room for 3,000 square feet of new classrooms and a 5,000 to 6,696 square-foot gymnasium. Other improvements include installation of new play areas, lighting, fencing, landscaping, retaining walls, driveways and parking spaces. Pinck & Co. are the project managers and, last Friday, BBCS selected W.T. Rich, a Newton-based construction company, as the construction managers.

Yully Cha, executive director of Bridge Boston Charter, said the location at 435 Warren Street in Roxbury is ideal for the school, both for its size and proximity to families.

“The location is fantastic,” she said. “In terms of size, it fits all our programmatic needs and many of our families live in the immediate neighborhood.”

Approximately 60 percent of BBCS students are located in Dorchester and Roxbury, according to information filed with the BRA.

But its location does not appeal to everyone. Laura Younger, member of Holborn, Gannett, Gaston, Otisfield Betterment Association, expressed concerns that the siting will exacerbate a currently dangerous traffic situation.

School future

The new location will allow BBCS, which has been renting spaces in a building at 2 McLellan Street on Blue Hill Avenue and one at St. Mark’s campus at 18 Samoset Street in Dorchester, to consolidate in one space, said Beth Kressley Goldstein, president of the Bridge Boston Board.

“This is significantly more productive for our educators and allows us to build a strong, vibrant culture,” Kressley Goldstein said.

The larger area offered by the new site will enable the addition of more grades, she added. BBCS currently enrolls 230 pre-K through fourth grade students. By 2019, school officials plan to add grades five through eight and enroll 400, according to project plans.

Arts and athletic programs will also receive a boost, Cha said. The new site gives BBCS the performance and instruction space it needs to increase capacity of its music program, and students will no longer have to travel to a remote facility for physical education and athletics. Kressley Goldstein said that the school will add an art room, science lab, kitchen, cafeteria and library.

Impact on transit

Younger said that traffic already is dangerously congested in the area, due to buses and parents dropping off children at other schools. BBCS’s new location will be across the street from Boston Latin Academy and close to KIPP Academy Boston Elementary School.

“We’re all for good schools but the siting for this school is imposed upon an already difficult situation,” Younger said. “Even without the siting of the school, some of those intersections are fender bender intersections.”

Boston Latin’s school buses clog up Townsend Street in the morning, she said, and parents often ignore the lights when turning into that school’ s entryway.

Younger said BBCS’ project is not well-suited to the overall context for where it is being located. HGGOBA members are calling upon officials to analyze and fix the existing traffic snarls, before BBCS even is added to the mix, she said.

“It is a chaos early in the morning along the Quincy corridor,” Younger said. “If we were siting in a best-practice way, we would not site the Bridge School at that site.”

Cha acknowledged that traffic flow is a key resident concern and has been a major topic during the past three community meetings.

The project staff hired MDM Transportation Consultants to assess the situation. Planners aim to reduce impact on local drivers by building an on-site traffic loop to direct student drop-off and pick-up process away from public streets.

Forty-nine parking spaces also will be provided, intended to serve 400 students and 89 staff members, according to project plans. Current zoning requirements only specify that 34 spaces be created.

Construction ahead

Plans for the project are near completion, Cha said. Two further community meetings are scheduled for January, and will focus on adjustments to plan elements, rather than larger changes.