The mission of A Village at Work is to create avenues and spaces for people to manifest change for themselves, their communities, and the world at large. Racial, economic, educational, housing, and environmental equality are at the heart of A Village at Work’s community work.
United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury (UNLR) bought the building located at 90 Windsor Street, with a community driven mission to improve the quality of life in Lower Roxbury and visioning the development of a center that would offer a multitude of services that would respond to community wants and needs. As a collective, AVAW is committed to support UNLR in creating a center that honors the hopes and vision of the community and the original mission of this building.
History and Origins UNLR (UNLR.ORG)
United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury (UNLR) is a neighborhood association dedicated to maintaining and improving the quality of life in Lower Roxbury, a historic neighborhood in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts. Members meet monthly to discuss issues affecting the neighborhood, such as major development projects, city services, and public safety.
UNLR was founded in 1971 after two decades of urban renewal policy destroyed 2,000 housing units in Lower Roxbury to make way for a highway that was set to tear directly through the neighborhood. Neighborhood groups, tenant organizations, church communities, and the future members of the United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury banded together to fight the creation of the highway and the ensuing pollution, noise, and community division it would bring.
This 1970 model shows the proposed Southwest Expressway (I-95) through the Roxbury-Forest Hills corridor. A 50-foot-wide median was to be reserved for two MBTA-Orange Line rapid transit tracks. (Photo by Massachusetts Department of Public Works.)
What could have been: This artist’s conception from 1965 shows the terminus of the Southwest Expressway (I-95) at the Inner Belt Expressway (I-695) in Roxbury. (Figure by Massachusetts Department of Public Works.)
The highway plan was canceled as a result of coordinated protest and action. UNLR harnessed the activist energy of the time to organize neighbors around protecting and revitalizing the remainder of a neighborhood that lost three miles of parks, schools, and historic homes during the highway planning period.
In 1978, UNLR purchased a building in the neighborhood that served as a community center and a meeting hall. The building, located at 90 Windsor Street, hosted a variety of events and programs, such as youth and educational programs, neighborhood meetings and social events, weddings and political forums. It served as a site for youth to explore creative outlets and interact with peers and adults in a positive, supportive manner. The center also hosted workshops promoting community activism and community forums and discussions. In 1997, the community center was closed due to a lack of funding and has been vacant ever since. It now requires renovations to the roof, windows and doors, plumbing and electrical systems, stairways, flooring, and walls. The United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury put out a request for proposals to redevelop 90 Windsor Street. A proposal to sell the building to a corporation who planned to turn the building into office space and the outdoor space into a parking lot was under serious consideration by the United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury’s Building Committee. Much like the Urban Renewal plans of the 60s and 70s, this proposal threatened to destroy common space and rip through the very fabric of the community. Just as the United Neighbors did in the 60s, community members organized and came together as a A Village at Work.
A Village at Work, originally comprised of only two people, canvassed the neighborhood and increased UNLR membership by 200%, simultaneously increasing the diversity of the membership to represent all segments of the Lower Roxbury community. The United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury membership overwhelmingly voted to keep the building in community hands and for UNLR to accept the proposal for UNLR to develop 90 Windsor street. A Village at Work, the United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury, the residents of Lower Roxbury, and a team of local architects, educators, artists, farmers, activists, students, and youth are currently working to renovate 90 Windsor Street into a space for education, creativity, arts, healing, activism, and leadership development for people of all ages. A dramatic shift in leadership led to a newly elected and energized UNLR Board of Directors.
Positivity, organization, hope, and value and pride in community were at the heart of the incorporation of the United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury in 1971. More than 30 years later, the community reclaims that vision and its commitment to UNLR’s mission and stated purpose.