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Beacon Hill seeing influx of young professionals

Posted by Roy Greene  February 8, 2011 03:46 PM

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(Hanna Trudo photo for boston.com)


Robert Testa (center), president of the Beacon Hill Young Professionals, with other members of the group at the annual Beacon Hill Civic Association Winter Dance.


Beacon Hill has been long known for housing Boston’s elite older residents and key political players, from John Hancock to John Kerry.

But now, a growing population of young professionals is trading student-inundated neighborhoods for Beacon Hill’s stately brownstones, forging a thriving community of socially charged young adults.

Recently, the growing youth movement in Beacon Hill was on display in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, one of Boston’s most exclusive gathering spots, at the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s annual Winter Dance. In its 39th year, the fund-raiser drew dozens of 20-something members of the Beacon Hill Young Professionals, which now boasts nearly 500 members.

“We are the next generation of Beacon Hill,” said Amanda Dunker, social chairwoman of the BHYP. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between the generations because Beacon Hill is sort of misrepresented. We can learn a lot from [older residents], and they can learn from us.”

An estimated 35 percent of Beacon Hill residents are under 34, said Robert Testa, president of BHYP. The group works with the Civic Association on philanthropic and social events, as well as creating a sense of community among its own members.

“We want to create an environment where you can actually meet your neighbors,” Testa said.

At the annual gala, where ticket prices ran as high as $2,500, the young professionals donned 1950s-style suits, feather-trimmed gloves and carpet-grazing gowns as they mingled with longtime residents at the “Old Hollywood Glamour Dance.”

The synergy between young and old created a dynamic fusion on the dance floor, as just-into-the-job-market professionals danced arm-in-arm with older Beacon Hill powerbrokers. More than 350 people attended.

“The events are a great way to get young people involved in the community,” said Dunker, champagne flute in hand.

Suzanne Besser, executive director of Beacon Hill Civic Association, said the association has embraced the youth group, working with it on event planning and naming a member to the association’s board of directors.

A year and a half ago, after completing a 10-year strategic plan, Besser said she began to factor the youth population into her long-term planning.

"A lot of people go to school here, so when they start working, this is a really ideal place for them to live," she said. "And we've been working on a lot of ways for young people to remain here."

The association funds programs that improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, including architectural preservation and initiatives regarding trash removal, traffic and parking.

Sarah Redmond, vice president of BHYP, says the group is working to build a network of young residents who are linked professionally and personally and for a larger civic purpose, through philanthropic efforts.

“We like to do service projects in and out of our neighborhood,” Redmond said. “We’ve volunteered at places like Christopher’s Haven, Greater Boston Food Bank, Cradles to Crayons and City Year.”

Like other young professionals, Redmond said she was drawn to the “charm and neighborhood feel” of Beacon Hill when she looked for apartments. The area, with its knot of narrow streets bisected by Charles Street, has a close-knit atmosphere.

“It’s hard to walk down Charles Street and not see someone you know,” she said.

Redmond said she enjoys the interactions with older residents.

“It’s great to work alongside Civic Association members on clean-up days or holiday decorations,” she said.

At the Winter Dance, spirits ran high, as young and old neighbors left their weather worries behind for an evening of music and light conversation. The tilt of youthful stamina was in evidence.

“When the music starts in the beginning, it’s a little more sedated,” Besser said. “By 1 a.m., it’s wild.”

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Hanna Trudo, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (l.chedekel@neu.edu), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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