The Boston’s Latin Quarter Cultural District Plan was initiated by community advocates to realize their goal of establishing Boston’s Latin Quarter as a vibrant center of Afro-Latin culture for Greater Boston. The plan was the result of a year-long community-initiated planning process, and advanced previous efforts to recognize the Latin Quarter as a cultural district, expand investment in arts and cultural facilities and programming in Boston, and better support Boston’s growing Latino population.
Working with the Hyde Square Task Force, a local youth development organization, alongside an advisory committee of residents and community leaders and the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s (MAPC) Arts & Culture Department led the development of a process and plan targeted toward the needs and concerns of the neighborhood, with an emphasis on inclusion, sustainability, mitigating residential and commercial displacement, and supporting greater integration of local merchants with cultural district priorities and programming.
Boston’s Latin Quarter is located in a part of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood that has long been a place where arts, culture, and activism have anchored community development. Since the 1960’s Latinx residents began to settle into the neighborhood and built businesses along the commercial spine. Facing disinvestment from sources outside of this community, Latinx-led groups began to band together and organized to form a cultural district in the early 1990’s.
In 1991, the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) formed to support youth development in the neighborhood. They have been a key partner in connecting youth and the arts to neighborhood renewal, helping organize mural projects and expanding Afro-Latin cultural events and programs in the district. More recently, the neighborhood has experienced noticeable demographic change; between 2000 and 2010, after five decades of decline, the white population in Jamaica Plain increased by nine percent while the Latinx population declined by eleven percent. As of 2019, new development projects worth more than $300 million were slated for the area over the next decade, prompting concerns about displacement and the lack of local cultural facilities, institutions, and programming for Latinx residents.
In 2008, a group of small business owners, HSTF, and Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) decided to brand the area as Boston’s Latin Quarter. In 2015, HSTF youth partnered with the organization’s staff and board to lead a community-wide effort to strengthen the Latin Quarter brand through cultural district designation. Their work resulted in a unanimous Boston City Council resolution to officially designate the Hyde-Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain as Boston’s Latin Quarter.
In 2016, HSTF and the City of Boston secured an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support an arts and community development project focused on strengthening Boston’s Latin Quarter by applying for state cultural district designation with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. MAPC’s Arts & Culture Department joined the project team as a cultural planning consultant and led development of the cultural district plan.
MAPC’s Arts & Culture Department led the planning process in partnership with the Boston Latin Quarter Advisory Committee, the Hyde Square Task Force, and the Boston’s Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.
In addition to $38,700 in funding from the MAPC Technical Assistance program and arts and cultural planning resources provided by the Barr Foundation, this project received $28,000 in support from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant program for a total budget of $66,700.
The plan’s data collection and community engagement processes revealed that Latinx-owned and Latinx-serving businesses, such as bodegas and barbershops, were key assets in the Latin Quarter’s cultural identity; in 2019, approximately half of the 104 businesses along Centre Street in the Latin Quarter were Latinx-owned or managed. The recent loss of two long-term, highly visible anchor businesses highlighted the importance of supporting the local business community through the Latin Quarter Cultural District Plan. In response to these concerns, the plan proposed two comprehensive strategies, centered on storytelling and commercial stabilization, to strengthen, preserve, and promote the neighborhood’s small businesses as anchors of Latinx cultural identity.
- Commercial stabilization strategy, including recommendations for technical assistance for existing small businesses (e.g. marketing, business development, licensing/permitting, commercial lease negotiation), strategies for ensuring that new development supports the needs of Latinx business owners, and data collection efforts to understand residential displacement trends and risk as part of a larger strategy of residential displacement mitigation.
- Storytelling strategy, including opportunities to deepen resident’s connections to the district’s history through creative placemaking and place-based storytelling projects; documenting the history of the district and its important people, events, and places as a foundation for long-term preservation strategies; and partnering with academic institutions to establish the significance of the neighborhood to larger historical narratives.
- Marketing and branding strategy for the cultural district, including a graphic identity, street banners and signage, and social media marketing materials designed to complement the district’s distinct built environment, provide increased visibility for local businesses, and integrate with cultural programming, such as the Latin Quarter World’s Fair.
- Honored with the 2019 Social Advocacy Award from the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Metropolitan Area Planning Council. (September 2019.) Boston’s Latin Quarter Cultural Plan. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/file/2019/12/BLQ%20CULTURAL%20DISTRICT%20PLAN%20FINAL%20%281%29.pdf.
Metropolitan Area Planning Council. (n.d.) Boston’s Latin Quarter Cultural District Plan. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from https://www.mapc.org/resource-library/boston-latin-quarter/ .