Developer readies plans to convert large, crumbling former church in Jamaica Plain into apartments and performance space
Pennrose, the company currently turning a former middle school in Hyde Park into New England's first LGBTQ-centered senior-citizen apartment building, says it will shortly file detailed plans to turn the former Blessed Sacrament Church on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain into a new moderate-income housing complex with performance and community space.
In a letter of intent filed with the BPDA, Pennrose says its plans will include 55 apartments both within the former church building and in two new buildings at its rear. Also in the plans: A 6,475-square-foot performance space.
Pennrose, which was selected by the Hyde Square Task Force to do something with the church before it crumbled completely, says 60% of the apartments will be aimed at people making no more than 60% of the Boston area median income, with some of those limited to people making no more than 30% of that level. The remaining units will be available to people making between 80% and 120% of the area median income, the company says.
Of the units, 14 will be studios, 22 will have one bedroom each and 19 will have two bedrooms each.
Pennrose adds it will use only electrical systems for heating and cooking.
The Archdiocese of Boston closed the church in 2002.
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Finally some movement!
I'm glad too see that after all these years the property will be put to good use.
Why has the Catholic church abandoned Boston? This has been going on for a long time now. Beautiful church buildings torn down and not replaced after fires. Churches allowed to sit and decay. I just don't understand it. Isn't the Catholic church one of the richest religions in the world?
That building was sold a long time ago.
The developer and the community have not previously been able to reach a consensus on a project which works for everyone involved. There is some new housing on the site, which is both attractive and relatively affordable. The Archdiocese has been consolidating parishes for a long time. It's not some insidious scheme. The numbers aren't there, in both Mass attendance and financial support. Much of the "wealth" of the Church is in the form of real estate, which produces no income and requires expenditures for maintenance and operating costs. RCAB is not alone in dealing with the issue.
Isn't attendance way down?
I know a lot of adults who were raised Catholic in families of four or five kids who have only had one or two kids now, for a variety of reasons. A lot of those people are also less likely to attend church other than the few Big Days of the calendar. I don't know why the church would maintain a giant basilica where there are a handful of attendees, even with their untold wealth.
Ah! The RCAB
I will defend cultural Catholics and most of our mores, but not the Archdiocese.
The RCAB and orders within the area sold as many urban churches as it good but held onto better real estate as long as they could just in case they could weather the storm of their employees having sex with children.
They tried to run out the clock as best they could but now on the upside, things are falling apart slowly. They have sold an HH Richardson designed house in need of attention on 8 acres fronting on the Atlantic in Cohasset to BC for $6M (2017) and Miramar in Duxbury, which is not waterfront, but has a killer view has closed. Somehow when it came time to sell a church in East Boston with a thriving immigrant community, that had to go and not the 8 acres in Cohasset.
There are still "retreat" houses in the RCAB's name of other orders. A nice big house in Cohasset on J-Road was sold to the guy who owns W.B. Mason three years ago. There is still a "retreat" house on the water in the Ocean Bluff section of Marshfield. It would sell for good money.
Parishes are being consolidated. St. Brendan's in Dot is going to close because of deferred property care. However, It is absolutely because attendance is down that churches are closing. Nevertheless there was a good offer for St. Pius X in Scituate for house lots, despite years long vigils by parishioners, it had to go. It is now a thriving Coptic Church. (Yes there is an Egyptian church in Scituate) and not house lots.
I can't cap on the Brothers at Arch Street who run a food bank and I appreciate the renovation of the Cathedral but time to cut your loses and perhaps that one priest doesn't need that 8 bedroom Georgian house in Dorchester.
I might regret this question
But without getting too in the weeds about the politics of it all... how much of an impact is the schism between the relatively progressive Pope and the conservative right wing Catholics who seem somewhat in ascendant in the States, if at all? I.e. are there "Alito" Catholics who would be going to mass in various churches around here if not for their support of the pope. Or visa versa.
I think the demographics are really the main thing locally but I could see this mattering a bit too.
"having sex with children"
Children can't consent. You mean rape.
And every time anyone else mentions the Catholic Church's issues with clergy sex abuse, you throw a goddamned tantrum that Christians and white people are oppressed or whatever. At least pick a position and stick with it.
I Worded It That Way
Just so you could come out with your electronic hairshirt on and let us know about your self imposed suffering.
There are fetid puddles on toxic waste sites more pleasant and tolerable than you.
Attacking another person - even with words - can hardly be called catholic in a Christian sense of Catholic in a Roman sense. Despite all the debates of what Jesus said or did not say, it's easy to agree that Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Thomas and all the doctors of the Church probably would agree that attacking a person with words is just mean.
Debate yes disagree yes, attack no.
Lots of reasons
Weekly church attendance is way down from generations ago - used to be every family in a certain neighborhoods and their 5 kids would attend each week, now it’s mostly blue hairs apart from a few holidays.
Parochial school attendance is also way down - tuition used to be dirt cheap because all the teachers were nuns who barely got paid. Now there are basically no more nuns (I think because back in the day joining the nunnery was one of the few options for women who didn’t want to become baby making machines subservient to their husbands, which fortunately is not the case anymore). So remaining schools are now like expensive prep schools.
There are not enough priests to staff each church, and aren’t able to train enough new priests to replace the old ones.
The child abuse scandal has obviously impacted attendance, donations, public perception, and cost tons of money in settlements (not saying any of this isn’t their own fault).
Not sure how much cash the Vatican has in the bank, but I always got the impression the local dioceses are basically broke. And seems like a lot of their wealth (at least at a local level) isn’t liquid but are their artifacts or are tied to the property values of their buildings.
These are the impressions of a church goer but not someone involved or with knowledge of their management.
What churches were "torn down
What churches were "torn down and not replaced" after fires? When?
Weymouth burned about 15 years ago and rebuilt.
St. Ambrose and the former St. Williams in Dot. Burned 1980 and 1979. Both rebuilt. St. Williams, which is now a SDA church had the same architect as Cathay Pacific in North Quincy. Look at both places and then laugh.
Three burned down, three replaced.
Not all rebuilt to original architectural specs, sorry to disappoint [edit - NOT you, the original commentator].
So, the answer to the question is there were not any that were torn down and not replaced after fires.
I don't even know if you could say they were "torn down" (other than demo of completely burned roofs/walls). Sacred Heart was rebuilt in its existing walls. Saint Ambrose was rebuilt in its existing footprint, including walls that could be reused (roof & some walls/windows were replaced) and having a changed layout inside. Saint William was rebuilt in its existing footprint, too, but different style and layout.
That isn't to say that RCAB doesn't have a poor record in how they've treated some parishes, neighborhoods, and communities over the last five or six decades. It's just that the examples you cite are wrong.
My childhood church
St. Phillips on Harrison Avenue across from the Green Shoe factory burned down in the late sixties early seventies. Never replaced.
You were not correct @Rob.
Thank you! At last - a
Thank you! At last - a substantive, informative answer!
Several long-time Roxbury/South End folks had told me that Rosie's Place was where the church had been, but never mentioned that anything had happened to the building before that. Was that around the time some people were expecting that the southwest expressway and inner belt would be plowing through those neighborhoods, or later (when there were all sorts of fires)?
Saint Phillip got hyphenated with Saint Francis de Sales. Their original building got flattened in site clearance for Madison Park High or some other project in that area. Their Ruggles Street building was originally built for some other denomination.
I wasn't following the
I wasn't following the highway news back then but it was before the
arson clearingmultiple suspicious fires in Roxbury. The fires were in a different part of neighborhood.
One simple (and probably simplistic) answer is that the archdiocese of Boston needs the money, because of reasons you probably know. In addition, to my limited understanding, the finances of "the Catholic church" are complicated. It's not as if there's one bank account and the Pope decides how it's disbursed: properties are owned by different orders or by dioceses, not by the Vatican. So, even if it makes sense to keep a church open (and it may not), it may just not be doable.
In 1970, the Archdiocese of Boston had 2,258 priests. In 2020 the number was 1,087. There's a recent post on this website about how the T has to cut bus runs because of staffing shortage. Imagine if they only had half the bus drivers they did 50 years ago?
That and, as also noted, there have been demographic changes. 50 years ago you'd have neighborhoods full of devout Catholic families with a lot of kids attending mass every week-end. Today, not so much. When Cardinal O'Malley began the process of shutting down the churches, he made the analogy of keeping a large house when there's only one person living there. Parishioners that were left at Blessed Sacrament went over to Our Lady of Lourdes, which is a pretty vibrant community. Even before all of this, my parish merged with St. Andrew down in Forest Hills. That church was kept open for 1 mass as long as there were more than 100 people on average attending. That lasted a few years, with the school outlasting the church.
Wondrous - God created? - miracle
I love this building. But then I feel older building designed for religious use generally contain beauty that is not a part of modern architecture. Not to dismiss modern architecture; but to simply acknowledge the beauty of past architecture. Where older religious buildings are concerned size can matter. The front alone is grand and inspiring. The building is a gemstone of local architecture. Forgive the stretched metaphor: one of the architectural, urbanized gemstones that is surrounded by Olmstead's Emerald Necklace.
Yet there is a beautiful, even divine, irony that after so long a developer is accepted. A developer associated with one of the enemies of choice of the conservative political side of the Vatican and its offshoots.
Question: Are there any covenants that the local diocese placed on the sale of the property that could be used to sabotage this development since the developer is associate with developing a property that is specifically oriented (pun intended) to folks who are gay, lesbian, etc? Given the social extremism running amuck under the disguise and cloak of religious belief, I can see this as an extreme reach but still a possibility.
Whole Lot of Covenants
Not against LBGTQ people but actually against fetal cell research and abortion in any forms.