School, CDC want St. Andrew’s property

January 5, 2007
By

LOU MANCINELLI

WOODBOURNE—The 3-acre lot on Walk Hill Street where the closed St. Andrew the Apostle Church complex stands is now officially for sale, according to a broker from Jack Conway and Company, the firm the Archdiocese of Boston is using as its agent.

The church closed in 2000, and the adjacent elementary school was closed by the archdiocese in 2005.

The Young Achiever’s School, located across the street from St. Andrew’s on Patten Street, has formed an official relationship with non-profit Community Development Corporation Urban Edge. The partners have expressed their desire to acquire the property for the school as well as development of mixed-income housing.

“Since the beginning of the marketing we have seen significant interest in parties interested in the property,” said Mike Foley, the agent handling St. Andrew’s. “We encourage any and all interested parties to contact us.” The archdiocese is accepting applications until the end of February.

According to Virginia Chalmers, principal of Young Achiever’s, a math and science pilot school of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), the school’s current facilities lack the classroom space and facilities to accommodate a growing number of students. Those conditions hamper the ability of the school to perform its mission as best as it could, she said.

“The common goal is to expand family access to pilot schools and keep families in the city,” said Chalmers. “We are trying to stem attrition. We want to be able to keep our kids here.”

Chalmers said the biggest problem at Young Achievers is the number of students now in the lower grades who will be entering grades 5 through 8, not having enough space. She also said there needs to be more space for incoming kindergarten students.

“The school badly needs to expand its space,” said Mossik Hacobian executive director for Urban Edge.

Chalmers approached Urban Edge last summer about forming a formal relationship. In 2002 Urban Edge developed the facilities for the Greater Egleston Community High School, also part of the BPS pilot school system.

“That school is busting at the seams,” said Hacobian. “Right now they are thinking about expanding to include programs during the night time.”

If the Young Achiever’s and Urban Edge team does acquire the property, the development will also include either rental or home-
owner (or some combination of both) mixed-income housing.

In a conference call with the Gazette, Chalmers and Hacobian said over the past year they have met with neighbors and Father Francis Kelly of Sacred Heart, the church responsible for the St. Andrew’s property. According to Chalmers and Hacobian, neighbors expressed a strong interest in the project, and the pastor was interested in the possibility of increased mixed-income housing.

The two also said they plan to schedule two additional meetings in the upcoming months to discuss their proposal with neighbors and gauge community opinion and wishes.

Hacobian said the time will also be used to analyze the site and conclude a preliminary plan of what type of buildings need to be constructed in order to best accommodate the needs of the school. The first step is to determine how much overall space the school needs.

He also said he is aware of the current larger community planning process taking place in the Forest Hills area and said the plans for St. Andrews must cooperate with that process.

Traffic and parking are other issues that will be considered in the preliminary proposal.

“We know there will be other people bidding for the property,” said Hacobian. “We want to be thoughtful and complete and supported by the community. The top priority is the needs of the school.”

“The basic process has been we know we have an opportunity here,” said Chalmers. “Neither the church nor school facilities were being used.”

Hacobian said that if the partners acquire the property, some of the facilities may be available for immediate use, or with minimal renovation.

He said that they have estimated it would be about one year before full-fledged construction would begin. And that timetable would depend upon a variety of elements, including funding, the school’s educational timeline and the timeline of the larger Forest Hills community planning process.

Funding for the school and housing development would each come from separate processes. Both would include the cost the city will lease the land for, private dollars and city and state or even federal grants or tax-credits.

In a press release, Chalmers said she expects the expansion to increase enrollment from 315 to 440 students.

She also said she expects the new state-of-the-art facility would include a math/science complex with laboratory space for science and design; a library; a technology/media center with computer labs and film studio; an art room, health clinic—with space for a school nurse, mental health and assessment teams; a new cafeteria; a gymnasium; and parking for teachers and staff.

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