I hear about the need for a community center in Somerville on a weekly basis. As someone who worked with youth and athletics prior to joining the City Council, I see this as a glaring need in our city. The good news is that a community center has widespread support on the council as well as among Somerville residents, and there's talk of multiple public and private community centers.

Somernova community center

Rafi Properties' since-withdrawn proposal for a Somernova innovation district contained plans for a 25,000-square foot community space (with a promise of at least a 10-year operating budget). Since this is a key component of Rafi Properties' proposal, I except some version of this will remain in the re-filed zoning ordinance amendment petition that eventually will come back after conversations with City staff and negotiations with the Union Square Neighborhood Council's community benefits negotiating team. 

Meanwhile, Leggat McCall Properties and DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners are legally obligated to build a community center in Boynton Yards, or contribute financially to the creation of a community center elsewhere in the city. This was one of the community benefits negotiated between Boynton Yards and the Union Square Neighborhood Council in 2020.

Culture House, who currently have community space in Union Square, have expressed interest in creating some version of a community center. They have met with the Union Square Neighborhood Council, and though their focus would be more on the cultural side than the recreational or athletic side, it's still an important producd. 

And the Somerville YMCA have been acquiring properties from their current site on Highland Ave all the way to School Street as part of a planned redevelopment and expansion of their existing space. I've see how transformative a new YMCA can be after a new building was constructed in Oak Square in Brighton when I lived there. I'd love to see Somerville's YMCA do something similar here. 

While all of this is happening, there have been recent rumblings about the City of Somerville looking to build a municipal community center. This first was discussed as using ARPA funds, though that didn't turn out to be the case. 

Having multiple community centers might sound like a great situation for our city, but I'm concerned about redundancy in some programming areas, while others would risk being overlooked entirely. That's why I'm calling on the Administration to create a Community Center Task Force to guide this process to good outcomes by coming up with a Community Center Master Plan.

One thing I believe we can do very quickly is invest in staff -- both program staff and security -- to activate community center uses at our gleaming new high school outside of school hours. I believe this will provide valuble insights that we'll want regardless of what we end up doing with a community center in Somerville.

Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)