Developers propose hollowing out old South End church and putting a new residential building inside

Proposal for 80 Shawmut Ave. in Boston

No cracks about Borg cubes landing on churches, please.

Developers this month submitted plans to the BRA to turn the old Holy Trinity German Catholic church and rectory on Shawmut Avenue in the South End into 33 residential units, by completely removing the interior and replacing it with an eight-story steel structure.

The proposal by developers Dennis Kanin and David Goldman for 136 Shawmut Ave. also calls for a 24-space garage in the new building's basement.

The proposed project will create new housing options in a unique new building in this rapidly growing section of the South End. This dramatic design will blend old and new, creating a bold centerpiece for this developing neighborhood.

136 Shawmut small-project review application (7.7M PDF).

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Comments

This is a crime to destroy a

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This is a crime to destroy a beautiful sacred space for awkwardly designed housing. Why can't this church be reused by one of the many storefront churches around the city for its intended purpose?

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I totally support that,

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I totally support that, assuming there's a storefront church out there willing to pay $15 million for it (or whatever is the value of 33 condos)

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Not just the base cost

The reason many churches have sold off properties like this is that you need a very large, active, and generous congregation to operate such a building. Maintenance is very expensive, as are heat, staff, etc.

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But but but....

It is a church. It should always be a church. That's how it was when I moved into the neighborhood. Even though I have never set foot in it. Therefore I demand that whoever owns the land, must keep it as a church. Cost? Not my problem. That's your problem. I demand a church. Its the south end. We cannot change it. That would be sacrilegious.

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SimCity!

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It's like SimCity....once a church goes into a particular block, you're screwed! Bulldoze it and you end up with natural disasters...

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Sacred?

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What's so sacred about it? Just because people used to go there, and give money to the magic man in the sky in the hopes of getting into heaven someday, doesn't make it sacred.

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Phaedrus and the Church of Reason

It began with reference to a newspaper article about a [p152] country church building with an electric beer sign hanging right over the front entrance. The building had been sold and was being used as a bar. One can guess that some classroom laughter started at this point. The college was well‑known for drunken partying and the image vaguely fitted. The article said a number of people had complained to the church officials about it. It had been a Catholic church, and the priest who had been delegated to respond to the criticism had sounded quite irritated about the whole thing. To him it had revealed an incredible ignorance of what a church really was. Did they think that bricks and boards and glass constituted a church? Or the shape of the roof? Here, posing as piety was an example of the very materialism the church opposed. The building in question was not holy ground. It had been desanctified. That was the end of it. The beer sign resided over a bar, not a church, and those who couldn't tell the difference were simply revealing something about themselves.

from Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence

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Church

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Plus the yearly maintenance. A church of that size and age you are talking over a million a year, to bring the building up to code, which it isn't will be in the millions. Sacred space, not it was the congregation that made it Holy. Read your Bible

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Money

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There's no way those storefront churches could afford to buy that property.

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You Got $7,125,001?

That is $1 more than what Sean of the Sandals sold it for in December. Please blame him. The site was marketed well and was reportedly the subject of a bidding war. If the Church of Jesus Bible Nazarene In Christ God Yahweh has that scratch get up there post haste and make an offer.

This is a great design and is the fulcrum to help weld the traditional South End back to the old New York Streets. More housing for a street that is woefully underrepresented in the streetscape of the city is a good thing.

Thumping the tambourine one morning a week to maybe a few dozen people in the name of a deity is a waste of this space.

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"A great design"?

I now have a better understanding of why the RCC is so opposed to abortions, because that design is one.

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This church unfortunately is

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This church unfortunately is another asset they had to sell , with all the change I threw in the basket on Sunday mornings as a kid in church, I would like to know where it went.

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Housing

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Or a useless space where "reverends" can swindle gullible masses out of their hard-earned money while they're taking a break from shaking down large corporations?

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That's not a church...

...it's a building that formerly housed a church. A church is the people that make up a congregation, not the building they meet in.

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I remember going here every

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I remember going here every Sunday as a kid, ringing the bells in the steeple before mass started. The beautiful alter, statues, and stained glass, plus the traditional pre-Vatican II council music and organ really made you feel that you were in A place of solemn worship. I remember going to CCD in the basement before mass started and lighting the candles near the alter. After mass, I'd walk through the church yard picking up the ice catchers that fell off the roof and collecting them. I love this church. Too bad money rules the world, and this church has felled victim to the greed of others.

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Ugh

That is even uglier than what Graham Gund did to the church on Mass Ave.

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That was a salvage case

That church burned down in a spectacular fire, and it was considered to be somewhat amazing that anything of the original facade or exterior survived.

What Gund did to it was save some of what was left. Other architects and developers wanted to completely bulldoze it and start over with a lot-filling tower.

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Exactly. Different context

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Exactly. Different context and amazing design by Gund.

I find this one pretty terrible and a desperate attempt to fit as many condos as possible into the existing facade, but that's just my opinion.

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Appalling.

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That's one of the most hideous things I've ever seen. It's up there with the monstrosity they put up at Zero Worcester Square.

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Zero Worcester is indeed awful.

Monstrously outsized in proportion, sidewalk-shrinking, and featuring an ugly, modern design that sticks out like a black-and-blue thumb on a block of Victorian row houses. Somebody paid some serious graft to get that hideous beast approved. At least these designs don't change the aspect or footprint of the buildings.

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Could be a selling point

I mean, if you lived here, you wouldn't have to look at it.

Seems to be much more of an office or university laboratory building design than residential architecture.

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The street level unit in the

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The street level unit in the front of 0 Worcester Sq is so awful. Totally on display for passerby. It should have been made into commercial space or something. The overall design of the building is very awkward. There was one unit that has a full length window in their bathroom where the shower is! Not even partially frosted over, you're just completely exposed. Most of the units are very small, too.

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Looks very similar to what they did with the Penny Savings Bank,

now a pricey condo building (the glass-box part) with the original structure now housing Boston Chops (originally the architecturally-awesome but otherwise ill-fated Banq) and, of course, a Citibank.

The Penny, which was owned by the Archdiocese of Boston as I recall, had sat vacant for years. The developers managed to meet Preservation District requirements not to tamper substantially with the facade, as this project appears to be doing.

Old churches are notoriously tough to repurpose into living space. The Sahara (over on Shawmut), originally a church, has been a vacant, decrepit eyesore for decades. That big, beautiful white-marble church on Harrison near Boston Medical Center is another long-vacant white elephant.

I think it's a decent compromise; I prefer the spaces get used rather than to crumble idly into disrepair.

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Pretty sure the Sahara is vacant for issues

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other than architectural awkwardness. It would make a splendid something or other. I think it's just more jarring for most people to see a more ornate, recognizably "churchy" building like this other one to be so abruptly transformed. I'm not super religious but there's just something a little cringey about it.

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I know the Sahara has serious structural issues.

Its roof started falling in a few years ago, requiring some emergency repairs. I've watched it get steadily more decrepit for 15 years; in warmer weather, the front becomes overgrown with unsightly weeds. Its steps are now a popular spot for drunks and druggies to noisily congregate in the wee hours. That is the inevitable fate for any building that sits exposed to the New England elements, unused and unloved, for decades. It has an enviable, almost entirely-unused parking lot in the back that is littered with trash, old scaffolding and rusting construction gear. The last assessment I saw for it put the value around $15M, if memory serves. Who's going to pay that if all they can do is repurpose a modestly-size, empty box with a badly-crumbling brick exterior?

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Fascinating

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Always wondered about the Sahara. Whatever zoning/design relief is required to clean up that mess should be granted post-haste.

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A good Google will explain enough.

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Pretty common situation, or at least one that seems common to every beautiful, fatally abandoned/ neglected building I've ever known. I don't remember it ever being up and running even in the days when we used to go to the Red Fez when the elevated O line still ran along Washington St.

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A few months ago, I heard

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A few months ago, I heard that the church on Harrison at East Concord will be converted over to condos. One of the longtime neighbors told me it used to be used as a sort of detox facility for priests up until the 1970s (does anyone know about that? it was all very 'hush hush', whatever it was). It's a beautiful building.

The Sahara is such an interesting building. I've always wanted to know more about why whoever owns the building isn't doing anything with it. I kind of appreciate their stubbornness. I read on an old thread on chowhound that the Real World tried to get the owners to let them use it as a location when they filmed a season in Boston. Do the owners still use it for storage? I wonder what it was like when it was open!

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A formidable (albiet blimp-less) design

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Allowing the structure of the new to follow the datums of the old structural buttressing, and creating a sense of height with exposed vertical lines, maybe reminiscent of tall church windows in between structural bays like below? Setting the mass back and keeping it inside the heave stone church foundation, and allowing to protrude above, but still be kept in check by framing and staying below the original bell tower? Repurposing life into and old and interesting building?

I feel that this is actually pretty well throughout and executed, but it looks like they did forget the blimp in their rendering.

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Can we have a more confident design

New windows will be black. They won't be white like that.

Anyway it looks like the design is not confident in relation to the old church. I'd like to see something that talks to the old church with more equality even if it covered more of the doors and tower. The front looks weird without the choir or whatever that's called to back it up.

This is somebody trying to maximize interior space and keep people from flipping out. They could have worked with the neighbors to educate them and get more freedom in what they finally design.

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Box

I find the way it goes up to a flat-topped box jarring. It makes it look like the crash landing of half an office building rather than a though-out design. The ridges follow up off the buttresses to … nowhere.

They're using the roof for mechanical crap like hvac as well as two roof gardens for the big units, so they can't go full-on vault. But those lines seem like they should go up to _something_ so the building doesn't look like it had a fire or someone chopped the roof off.

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I'm all for it if …

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I'm all for this design, so long as periodically the building transforms itself into a giant walking robot (with the old church facade as the head) and rampages through the city, smashing other buildings while shouting "Decepticon Holy Trinity Commands You to Obey!" Lasers coming out of the steeple "hat" of the building would be a nice touch, of course. I realize BHA approval for this idea would be difficult.

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There's a distinct fantasy element to that rendering.

It reimagines that block of Shawmut Ave as a laughably-wide, beautifully-paved, two-way street (that car is going what is currently the wrong way) with Victorian gaslights, nicely-painted lane lines and no bumper-to-bumper resident-space parked cars on both sides. It won't be the first time (see Atelier 505), but big-ticket buyers will have to be comfortable with having the Castle Square public-housing development across the street.

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That car is not going the wrong way.

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Not sure why you think that. The car is headed towards Berkeley Street, which is the way the traffic flows in that section of Shawmut.

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Nope.

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The car in the pic is headed away from Berkeley towards downtown, counter to the actual traffic flow. That said, let them have their fantasy--they'll probanly get it. The whole area will be unrecognizable in five years. I mean--Ink Block...who'd a thunk?

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You're totally right.

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So weird--on my phone it totally appeared to me that the car was going the other way.

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Penny Savings

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Someone above mentioned Penny Savings Bank on Washington. It's one of my favorite 'new' buildings in the city.

Walking past it, you'd never know it was glass & steel. But from across the street, it looks like this.

http://www.frannbilus.com/listing/penny-savings-bank/

Also, this one in DownTown Crossing is sort of similar. Modern (in 1980) building inside the 100 year old facade.

http://www.costar.com/CoStarConnect/imageviewer/EnlargeImageCDN.aspx?id=...

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This is the just cheapest

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thing the developers could do with the space to make the most profit. What do they care about history or the aesthetics? That ice cube thrusting up from the nave of the church? It's a bold design blending the od and the new. Well bravo.

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Absolutely hideous! It looks

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Absolutely hideous! It looks like the church grew a glass condo shaped tumor.

That said, I'm really curious what the church to condo conversion that's been ongoing on Tremont St at the corner of Worcester St will end up looking like.

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This makes me sad.

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Holy Trinity Church is where I made my First Holy Communion and where I attended grades 1-3 at the parish school across the street. It was a diverse, poor population and the nuns fed and clothed us. We were lined up and given oral polio vaccinations in little paper cups at the school. We walked to the old SE Community Health Center for dental care.

Why can't this church be rehabbed into a homeless shelter or low income housing?

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Because you would still have

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Because you would still have to do all the costly interior rebuilding of space. Who's going to pay for it?

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Why Sell

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Why Sell when the alternative is to merely become more tolerant of ALL people, have socially relevant positions on 21st century issues, keep your hands to yourselves and appeal to enough people to become financially sustainable?

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I actually like the outside -

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I actually like the outside - from street level most the glass won't really be visible anyway - but looking at the plans some of those floor layouts are AWKWARD. When you're paying that much per square foot why would you want so much of it wasted in weird hallways.

I also don't understand the parking - They're going to have car lifts or something? How does that work, exactly.

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I am a big fan of gothic architecture

I wish they would at least respect the original with some arched windows at least, or SOMETHING to tie it in with the original structure. It could be really cool if you did it right, but this? It ain't right.

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Same Architect

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I'd like to point out that the Architect for this church project is the same that did Penny Savings.

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intetesting reuse and design I love

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This design is very innovative and 21 St century. I applaud the architect, James Alexander from Finegold Alexander associates has worked on many historic sites in Boston and beyond. Jim has received numerous awards for his reuse of historic properties. Finegold was also the architect for the Penny Savings Bank building on Washington a Street in the South End which is one of my favorite buildings in the area. Reusing a church to other uses is a difficult task. I commend New Boston Ventures for their insight. This developer has a incredible record for developing great buildings in Boston and beyond: the Allen House on Washington Street , the lofts project on East Berkeley St, the building at Worcester Sq/ Washington Street, the development at the corner of Dartmouth/ Columbus Ave in the SE and the conversion of a jail into a great housing development in Salem. As a resident of the South End for 30 years, I look forward to this building being developed to much needed housing and will be a great addition to the City.

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wow. much glass. so architecture.

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Other churches have been rehabbed into residential space, but NEVER have I seen such an ugly hack job as this disaster. It doesn't even try to look interesting or cool, and as for fitting the building just look at it.

I don't know anything about this architecture firm but it seems that it's one of those that uses the word 'architects' in its name where 'developers' would be more appropriate. Have they ever done tract housing in Framingham?

Good luck, Boston, the King's Chapel Residences & Shops are next.

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Location