New leadership for Nubian Square
Robert George envisions a more vibrant shopping district
The board of Roxbury Main Streets, Inc. has announced that Robert George, former executive vice president of Zoo New England, will serve as the organization’s executive director. The organization, formerly Dudley Square Main Streets, coordinates efforts to improve Roxbury’s largest commercial district, now known as Nubian Square.
Born in Antigua, George attended UMass Boston and previously served as alumni board president. The Banner caught up with George by phone last week to discuss his vision for the commercial district. The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What attracted you to the job of leading Roxbury Main Streets?
What attracted me to the job was the chance to practice and participate in the heart of the black and brown community of the city of Boston. The work done today will yield significant benefits in the future, so I wanted to apply my experience to the work being done. The team I work with is passionate about the project. I personally wanted to contribute to the historical legacy.
What do you envision happening in Nubian Square in the next 10 years?
There are several things I see happening. I see stability, I see growth and a strong business environment that emerges as a diverse cultural destination attracting individuals and families from all across Boston. I also see the state attracting national and international tourism. I would like to see well-paying jobs that offer stability to the community. I also envision a strong night life utilizing places such as Hibernian Hall and other facilities in the district for jazz, soul music, theatrical presentation, steel bands, African and Hispanic music. I’d also like to see casual and semi-formal dining in Nubian Square, spaces for education and learning, family fun destinations that build on the history of Nubian Square.
What will it take for Nubian Square to become a thriving business district?
It will require a continued focus on creative urban planning that involves the Roxbury community, the city of Boston, the lending institutions in the city and the philanthropic community. We have to start valuing the culture and the ethnic diversity that our community has to offer. The success of Nubian Square is the success of the black and brown community in the city of Boston, which benefits the entire city.
What are the challenges Nubian Square is currently facing?
The perception of safety. There’s still a perception that Nubian Square is unsafe. I would say that during business operating hours the square is just as safe as any other location in Boston. There’s also a lack of support from lending institutions investing in the community. A lot of things can get done here. I hope to be a driving force of getting things from point A to point B.
What are the district’s greatest assets?
I think it’s its residents, the people who create that rich ethnic background, what I refer to as black and brown Boston. Its location is unique. There are assets that already exist there. There’s tremendous opportunity for growth. There are recreational opportunities, arts, music. It’s a prideful, hard-working community. It has all the key ingredients to be a successful, thriving business community.