Mace’s Lane HS renovation seeks support

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Rev. Keith Cornish shared news of a project to renovate the remaining section of Mace’s Lane High School.

CAMBRIDGE — Mace’s Lane High School was a pillar of the African-American community during the days of segregation. It went on to become an integrated middle school, and was eventually replaced by a more modern building on the same property.

But part of the old, red-brick structure is still there, and plans are being made to renovate it for use as a community center and museum of local, African-American history and culture.

The Rev. Keith Cornish spoke to the members of the County Council on May 21, asking them for a letter of support as the Mace’s Lane Alumni Association and the Good Shepherd Association seek $2 million to continue their work. The groups have already secured about $470,000 through various bond bills and grants.

The Rev. Cornish said he had spoken to the state’s U.S. senators last week in Washington, D.C., and noticed that in the Library of Congress there were artifacts related to the African-American experience. “When we look at this county, we have the Board of Ed, it was a junior high. We have the YMCA, it was the high school,” he said. Mace’s Lane would represent African-Americans as a culture, he said.

“Why I say that is because, if those other buildings had to go through this process, I don’t think they would still be in existence. But anyway, we’ve been dealt this hand, and we’re honored to take our part,” he said. “We’re at the point of applying for a $2 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

This would allow the groups to complete the project within five years, the Rev. Cornish said, adding that they now need the county to state its intention to one day give the group the property or lease it to them. He also said while the local business community has not pledged support for the job, the groups needed to communicate their goals differently to gain backing.

In the meantime, he said, “We have a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm moving forward.”

“I like what you’ve done so far,” Council Member Ricky Travers (District 3) said. “You’ve come a long way since the start of the process.”

Mr. Travers made a motion to start the process of transferring the property to the groups, with a reversion clause specifying that if the project does not move forward, the site would return to the county.

A discussion then followed regarding transferring ownership or leasing, with County Attorney E. Thomas Merryweather pointing out that it is difficult to get funding for a leased building. Outright transfer, though, needs approval from the state’s Board of Public Works, because it is a school property.

Council members voted unanimously to begin the process to transfer the property to the groups.

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