Nubian Square is the heart of Roxbury, Massachusetts — and eight vacant parcels of publicly owned land provide an opportunity for residents and developers to work together to add catalytic development to this commercial center of Boston’s Black community. A diverse array of community stakeholders established a comprehensive plan for the lots.
Residents, business owners, and neighborhood organizations identified mixed-income housing, job training, and job creation as priorities to amplify and support community assets and advance the Roxbury Cultural District. Nubian Square Ascends is pursuing these objectives with the creation of a large-scale, mixed-use development; Richard Taylor, the project's developer, notes, “We are trying to recreate the commercial, entertainment and residential ecosystem that existed previously.”
Of course, as Taylor notes, “Housing alone doesn’t generate economic activity, doesn’t provide opportunities for small local businesses to thrive and doesn’t produce restaurant traffic.” Taylor and his group believe that Nubian Ascends’ two-acre parcel must be a transformative project, helping activate the square at nighttime and on weekends. Their plan: A food hall will have space for individual vendors and an on-site culinary program. A performance hall that seats more than 300 people will host music and theatrical events. A 300-car garage will offer plenty of parking. Fifteen condominiums and adjacent exhibition space will contribute to ongoing efforts to create and preserve culture in the Roxbury Cultural District.
Still, Taylor is most excited about the planned Life Sciences Training Center. “Boston is the number-one life sciences hub in America, with over 40 million square feet of lab space — yet it’s an industry we don’t talk about at the kitchen table in our neighborhoods,” he explains. “We are creating a training center for young people and for adults who want to switch careers.” The 40,000-square-foot center will partner with local schools, including the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Northeastern University and Roxbury Community College; students can earn a certificate or associate degree, both stackable towards a four-year degree. “We can get people on the ladder to this amazing industry — and you don’t need a Ph.D. in chemistry to succeed,” says Taylor.
BlueHub leads a group of local mission-based lenders in support of Nubian Ascends, collectively providing a $3 million predevelopment loan. Taylor notes, “Our other lenders were typically accustomed to working with nonprofit and affordable housing groups. We are grateful for BlueHub’s ingenuity in helping the team look at our mixed-use development through a different lens.” He sees it as another example of how “partnerships have strengthened the opportunities for local residents before the projects have even broken ground.”