Fieldhouse project lands $1m from state infrastructure bill

A rendering shows the $55 million Dorchester Fieldhouse project. RODE Architects image

Gov. Baker last week signed a $5.2 billion bill focused on repairs to state buildings that included $1 million for the Dorchester Fieldhouse project, a collaboration of two local nonprofits centered on a 75,000-square-foot youth facility on Columbia Point.

The nonprofits, the Martin Richard Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, received approval from the Boston Planning and Development for the $55 million project in March.

Over the summer, the Fieldhouse plan became entangled in a fight between Mayor Wu and Dorchester City Councillor Frank Baker over the use of the city’s federal recovery funds. The councillor proposed using $5 million in federal funds for the project and was incensed when Wu disagreed with the idea.

In a meeting with the Richard family in June, the mayor expressed her support for the project but added she felt that the money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) should not be deployed for such a use.

“I’ve had a chance to sit with the Richard family and discuss all of the many incredible things they are doing in the community and understand their deep desire to make sure there is a resource for young people in Dorchester,” Wu told the Reporter this week, adding that she was upfront with them that ARPA funds wouldn’t be set aside for the project.

Earlier this year, Wu recommended that the project receive $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funding, which goes toward creating or preserving affordable housing, historic sites, open space, and recreation.

At the federal level, Congressman Stephen Lynch, who represents Columbia Point, said in April that the Fieldhouse had received $1 million through a government funding package signed into law by President Biden.

A spokesperson for the Martin Richard Foundation said in a statement that the nonprofit was encouraged by the support from elected officials, from the local to the federal level.

“We can’t do big things alone, and we very much appreciate the leadership from the governor, mayor, and all of our elected officials,” said the spokesperson, Brenna Galvin. “We have a way to go, but collectively we can make sure Boston’s youth have all the competitive advantages of every other student in the Commonwealth and beyond. “

The $1 million for the Fieldhouse, tucked inside the government infrastructure bill signed by Baker last week, wasn’t the only Dorchester-related item to receive the governor’s approval.

The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute will get $1 million to help with the acquisition, design, and construction of a “Center for Healing, Teaching and Learning,” aimed at supporting people and families victimized by homicide.

State Sen. Nick Collins, who represents Dorchester and South Boston, pushed for both items to be included in the bill.

The bill also contains $500,000 for The Dorchester Community Food Co-operative, which seeks to offer access to healthy food and educational programming; $500,000 for the installation of an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot of Pope John Paul II Park, for use by Department of Recreation and Conservation staffers working the maintenance facility there, and by the general public; and $1 million for a study and upgrades to a vacant, state-owned property at 113 Walnut Street by the Neponset bridge connecting Boston and Quincy.

The bill was passed in the waning days of the session on Beacon Hill as legislators sent a flurry of them to the governor’s desk for his approval before returning to their districts and preparing for elections set for this fall.

Baker is still reviewing many of the bills, with action due in the coming days. Transportation legislation on his desk includes the creation of a special panel of state and city officials to study what the Morrissey Boulevard corridor needs as the major roadway faces increased contiguous development and rising sea levels.

That bill also includes $2 million for repairs to the Fields Corner MBTA Station and an overall $400 million for the MBTA as the public transit agency is in the federal spotlight for safety failures.

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