Wentworth Seniors Capture City’s Attention with Dorchester Enrichment Plans

August 9, 2019

Students on the steps of Wentworth Hall

The  “C-Square Gaming Center” team: seniors (left to right) Ron Harris, Brian Rammah, Roly Luna and Liana Flores

Two teams of management students at Wentworth Institute of Technology have completed business proposals for the City of Boston to designate a “safe haven” gaming center for teenagers in Dorchester’s Codman Square and culture café and community space in the Fields Corner area.

Each of the students is scheduled to graduate from Wentworth Aug. 18 at the university’s Summer Commencement.

“These projects provided practical, hands-on education for the students and actionable plans for the city at the same time,” said Michael Mozill, associate professor in the Department of Management.

There’s also the potential to impact quality of life for residents of the neighborhoods.

Mozill and other management faculty members, with Department Chair Leonard DeLosh and Patrick Hafford, dean of Wentworth’s College of Arts and Sciences, oversaw some 20 student capstone projects for 2019, including the City of Boston concepts. Teams of students presented their work at a July 31 campus forum attended by city officials and representatives from local businesses and government agencies.

The two Dorchester projects, with market analyses and details all the way down to desired community outcomes, funding and equipment costs, dovetail with elected officials’ ongoing efforts to re-purpose abandoned and languishing properties in City Council District 4, which encompasses Dorchester and Mattapan, and parts of Roslindale and Jamaica Plain.

“These innovative proposals from talented young people are exactly what our team is hoping for as we evaluate options for re-using available parcels in the district,” said Boston City Council President and District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell.

“The whole point of this [proposal] is to ensure that students in a lower-income, higher-crime-rate area have a place that they can come to,” said Liana Flores, a “C-Square Gaming Center” team member who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Above: a sample façade of what the culture cafe and community space might look like upon completion.

Flores worked on the center proposal with fellow students Ron Harris, Roly Luna and Brian Rammah. Their plan envisions a positive environment where Boston teens could do homework and school assignments and collaborate and build healthy relationships through activities like playing video games focused on the eSports industry. Teens using the facility would get gaming-time credits for time spent on schoolwork. The proposal also includes a café space.

Flores said the “C-Square” effort needs about $267,000 in start-up funding to pay for furniture and equipment and hire a center staff including three full-time workers and security. Besides nailing down a space for the center, the City of Boston would help with permits and licenses. Volunteers and tutors for the center would come from Boston Public Schools. The costs for the center would be offset by a digital equity fund and grants.

The proposal for the Fields Corner culture café and community space calls for creating a gathering site for residents—a destination in a high-foot-traffic area that would offer nutritional cuisine, enrich the social lives of residents in the area and bolster community spirit. The restaurant would serve foods that would appeal to the diverse groups in the area. Plans include a breakfast and lunch menu, cooking classes, and culture nights to bring residents together.

“We challenge Boston to use this model across the city,” said senior Mark Venuto, who worked on the Fields Corner project with Andre Robinson, Jordan Drexel, Kevin Forster and Efe Yilmaz.

Representatives of city agencies applauded the students’ proposals, with at least one saying elected officials and community leaders are reviewing the plans and are eager to help with funding to move the projects forward.

“The students obviously put a lot of work into these plans, and their ideas are amazing,” said Dustin Gardner, Campbell’s constituent services coordinator. “One of the key factors for us is finding out who the entity is that is going to take over and operate these spaces once the spaces are designated.”

The student’s Boston proposals grew out of CityLab, an immersive, high-impact effort launched last March by Accelerate, Wentworth Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, and Monique Fuchs, associate vice president, innovation and entrepreneurship. Involving community leaders, students, faculty members, and industry “rebels,” CityLab is aimed at developing a series of strategies and short-term solutions for underutilized and abandoned properties in Dorchester and Mattapan.

--Dennis Nealon

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