Community Integration at Jamaica Plain
From: Thomas Lofft (tloffthotmail.com)
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 12:41:32 -0800 (PST)


By MONICA BRADY-MYEROV
Published March 8, 2010  UPDATED 1:07 PM 
 

http://www.wbur.org/2010/03/08/jp-church

 

 


BOSTON — Blessed Sacrament’s soaring dome is a symbol of Jamaica Plain’s Hyde 
Square neighborhood.

“This has been a landmark in JP for 100 years and it’s also one of the few 
significant pieces of land that’s left in JP,” says Richard Thal, the executive 
director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), a 
community group that works to create affordable housing.

 
Jamaica Plain's Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by construction here, is being 
transformed into a housing complex. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
In 2005, JPNDC beat out commercial bidders and bought the church property from 
the Archdiocese of Boston for $6 million.

“This is the story of an incredible community that was so engaged,” Thal says, 
“where hundreds of people came together and said, ‘We have got to find a way to 
make this a community resource.’ ”

They did that by overcoming roadblocks of financing, zoning and planning to 
develop the three acres in a heavily residential neighborhood. While there will 
no longer be any religious worship at the church, part of the building will 
remain accessible to the community. The most challenging part of the project 
will be converting the 12,000-seat church — built back in 1890 — into housing.

Inside, the ceiling reaches 10 stories high. The Archdiocese took the stained 
glass windows for another church, but the space still feels religious.

“This area in the initial design is preserved as the common space, as an 
atrium,” says Brian Goldson, of New Atlantic Development, the firm that is 
overseeing construction of a four-story building inside the church. It will be 
what is called a co-housing complex — a type of condo where residents live as a 
community.

“Taking a church and turning it into housing is a bit of a challenge,” Goldson 
says. “You ask the church what it wants to be and it tells you it wants to be a 
church, not a bunch of condos.”

>From the outside, Blessed Sacrament will still look like a church, which is 
>comforting to the community.

“We heard from a lot of the neighbors and former parishioners that they would 
support the kind of vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment of this 
parcel, but if they did anything with the church they would never talk to us,” 
Thal says. “That was just out of the question as far as they were concerned.”

 
Richard Thal, left, and Brian Goldson stand within the under-construction 
Blessed Sacrament church in Jamaica Plain. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
One of those neighbors and former parishioners is Demaris Pimental, who owns a 
beauty shop down the street. As a parishioner, she was devastated to see her 
spiritual home sold, but she is happy to see the Blessed Sacrament campus 
turned into homes community members can afford. She and others feared 
developers bidding for the property would raze the church building and put in 
luxury condominiums. Pimental says a mix of housing is better.

“It’s not good to have only low-income (housing),” Pimental says. “It’s good to 
have a little bit of market value. And keeping that balance is a challenge for 
our neighborhood because gentrification will change that unique taste of 
diversity that Jamaica Plain has.”

The rectory now has condos on sale at below-market rates. The convent is being 
converted into housing for formerly homeless people. Construction is half way 
done on a new apartment building and retail space. And two former school 
buildings will be rented, one possibly to a charter school.

All uses, community members say, that fit with the neighborhood.


 

 

Tom Lofft

Liberty Village, MD


                                          
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