Early plans for St. Andrew’s unveiled

February 16, 2007
By

LOU MANCINELLI

WOODBOURNE—Representatives from Young Achievers school and Urban Edge hosted a community meeting to introduce preliminary plans and receive community input for their desired purchase and development of the St. Andrew the Apostle complex on Patten Street Monday evening.

About 75 community members were present Feb. 12 at Young Achievers School on Walk Hill Street.

Representatives said they want to acquire the St. Andrew’s property now for sale by the archdiocese so the school can expand to accommodate its growing population and better serve its educational mission. Some sort of mixed-income for-sale and rental housing would also be part of development.

Audience members said they supported Young Achievers expansion and praised the school’s education, but were concerned about the impact development would have on the people who live in the neighborhood. They also said they want the school to be accessible to local children.

The current church and elementary school would primarily serve as general assembly, new classroom and lab space.

A proposal for a walk-zone that would guarantee a few neighborhood children could attend the citywide math and science pilot school is also part of the plan. If the property is acquired, work is targeted for completion by August, 2009.

“When it comes down to it, I’ve heard a lot of people say they believe in the school,” said neighbor Scott Hoffert. “But there are two basic things we want…we want kids in our neighborhood to go there. And we want the folks who live in the housing to be active members of the community who care about the neighborhood as much as we do.”

Acquisition of the approximately 3-acre property would include the church, which closed in 2000; the adjacent school that closed in 2005; a rectory; a convent; a small kindergarten building; and a parking lot.

Architects from Utile, Inc. in Boston gave a PowerPoint presentation that showed potential layout plans, should the group win the bid for the property and expand into the church. Bids are expected to be accepted by the archdiocese beginning in mid-March.

Utile architect Christina Crawford said the buildings are beautiful and in good condition inside and on the exterior. She said an interesting aspect of the design is the presence of two sanctuaries.

The larger, main sanctuary would be renovated in some way to host a library/media room, gym, learning center and a general assembly space. A dining hall for the students could go into the smaller sanctuary. Ideas for some sort of health clinic beyond a school nurse were also discussed.

The second major part of the expansion would be the elementary school, which sits catty-corner to the church and up a steep hill on Wachusett Street. Crawford proposed building some sort of addition connecting the school to the church. This would create an additional entrance to the school and negotiate the steep grade of the hill, she said. That building would serve as a new secondary entrance for staff.

The school would house administrative offices and a conference room on the first floor. Classrooms and labs would fill the second floor.

The PowerPoint presentation outlined Urban Edge’s three green objectives, which are part of the proposal. They are to minimize energy cost/emissions; good indoor air quality; and to minimize waste and promote recylcing.

Matthew Littell of Utile, said his team analyzed the types of buildings already in the area, which were primarily mid-sized two-family homes. He said the housing would reflect the current style of the neighborhood.

Beyond that, the location and types of other buildings development may include were not presented.

“We didn’t want to do that until we talked to you and gave you a chance to give your input,” said Noah Maslan, associate director of real estate at Urban Edge.

A questionnaire was passed out by Urban Edge representatives to the audience, but it did not ask any questions about what type of buildings one would like to see.

Rather, it asked questions like “What are the amenities that exist in the neighborhood that we should consider when developing a plan for the site?” and “Which of the following statements best reflect the potential benefits of redeveloping the St. Andrew’s property?”

“I support the broad concept, but I want to express concerns in several areas, or I should say, suggestions,” said Sarah Buermann of Weld Hill Street. “I hope Urban Edge is going to express to us potential circulation patterns, parking and sustainable development specifics. Like, are you going to use organic compounds? …What is your heat source? …Are there any invasive species? And I hope you will consider the planning going on in the greater Forest Hills area.”

“I support Young Achievers school and expansion,” said Ngina Hythcott. “But how about a play area for kids and something for adolescents. Boredom creates an environment for negative things to occur.”

Anne Anderson said she “loves” Young Achievers. But she questioned Urban Edge’s track record and said she is concerned about how effective they are as a community development corporation (CDC) based on their federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and MassHousing ratings.

“I’ve worked with CDCs for 20 years, and their work does not quite match up to others, especially in management,” she said.

“I think management is something you have to continually be working on,” said Mossik Hacobian, executive director of Urban Edge. “I’m not sure what she is referring to about ratings by HUD and MassHousing and other monitoring agencies. If we didn’t pass, we wouldn’t still be managing. I don’t think there is a management company who can say they can’t do better.”

Any expansion by the Young Achievers must first be approved by Boston Public Schools (BPS). School principal Virginia Chalmers said that may be difficult, because BPS is experiencing attrition in many of its other schools. Meanwhile, demand for Young Achievers is booming.

“The district is committed to working with the school and community to explore various options,” said BPS spokesperson Chris Horan. “We are willing to take a close look at the enrollment figures, financial considerations and other factors, to ensure the ongoing success of this school.”

Local City Councilor John Tobin was also at the meeting and expressed his support for Young Achievers and the neighborhood.

Representatives from Young Achievers approached Urban Edge last August for help in developing a plan to acquire the St. Andrew’s complex. Development would help pay for the cost of the property, which is still unknown.

Urban Edge engaged in a similar project when they developed the Greater Egleston Community High School in the 1990s.

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