About 40 merchants and residents gathered Tuesday morning for breakfast and brainstorming about the progress Hyde and Jackson squares have made over the past year. Hyde Jackson Square Main Street, the business and community development agency for the neighborhoods, also held its annual meeting during the session at the Julia Martin House.
“I feel a lot more comfortable being a business owner in Jamaica Plain because of what you do,” said entrepreneur Yessy Feliz of Tails.
The dog grooming, doggie daycare and pet supply store has grown recently, occupying storefronts across from one another in the heart of Hyde Square.
“We’re taking over the neighborhood,” Feliz joked.
Gerald Robbins, executive director of Hyde Jackson Square Main Street, structured the meeting so that attendees were able to jump in with their own ideas right from the beginning. Well, after enjoying a breakfast of eggs and tostones catered by Old Havana Restaurant.
Each table brainstormed on topics including economic development, promoting the neighborhoods and design. Here’s a feed of ideas, which Main Street encouraged people to Tweet about using the hashtag “hydejackson.”
Tom Griffith, vice president of Hyde Jackson Main Street and pastor at River of Life Church, emceed the “community visioning” session.
“I love the vision of Hyde Jackson,” said Griffith, who called on the crowd to shout together, “Hyde Jackson!”
“We want to serve, to help the community be safe and run [our organization] on sound business principles,” he said.
That phrase was likely a nod to a negative chapter in Hyde Jackson Main Street’s history, in which then-executive director Carlos Schillaci was suspended in July 2011 amid embezzlement charges. He pleaded guilty to four counts of larceny in summer 2013, according to the Gazette. The scandal led to new auditing procedures for Main Streets organizations, which are funded through a mix of city and federal dollars.
Tuesday’s meeting included a look back at progress in the district for 2014. Robbins laid out among Hyde Jackson Square Main Street’s accomplishments completion of three commercial sign projects, installation of new artistic bike racks and hosting of community cultural events like summer’s Theater in the Park/Teatro en el Parque.
In terms of organization, the Main Street group added three new board members and saw a 56 percent growth in the number of volunteer hours worked versus 2013.
One major effort for 2014 was getting free energy surveys for the district’s 130-plus businesses. The “Centre Street Saves” program helps businesses reduce energy costs.
Robbins also highlighted the success of business English classes taught in partnership with Egleston Square Main Street. Many business owners in what some call the city’s Latin Quarter have limited English skills.
Hyde Square Main Streets also increased its reach on social media, with growing presences on Facebook, Twitter and via its newsletter. The district even had a presence at Logan Airport, thanks to four-foot by 20-foot ads designed by Board Member Bob Field.
[Editor’s note: A photo caption misidentified a police officer in the initial posting of this item.]