Blessed Sacrament is looking more like Cursed Development for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, an affordable housing organization that is being criticized by longtime friends for selling much of the church campus to luxury builders.
The JPNDC itself is clearly not thrilled about it. It struggled, delayed and cajoled its for-profit partner for years before biting the fiscal bullet. It did all that while sitting on another massive, stalled project in Jackson Square. The financial pressure must be enormous.
The JPNDC rightly notes it already built a large amount of affordable housing on the campus. Problem is, people remember how it did so.
When the church was for sale seven years ago, the JPNDC boosted its winning bid by holding community meetings and staging a rally on the church steps where gentrification was booed. But when the luxury development deals were made this year, the JPNDC agreed to them privately and quietly, with no public input. The deals might still be unknown to the public if the Gazette had not investigated and revealed them.
The JPNDC is well within its rights to conduct business in private, but in doing so here, it failed its own standards. The organization is now free to focus on other efforts to help the working class. But how will it muster support after having a hand in Hyde Square’s most prominent unaffordable housing, and after showing such lack of faith in community input?
It will be a challenge—but hardly the biggest the JPNDC has taken on.