Church housing plan to get BRA review

August 17, 2012
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HYDE SQ.—The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) will hold at least one community meeting and reconvene a community advisory committee (CAC) to review a controversial high-end apartment plan at the Blessed Sacrament Church site, assuming the plan is officially filed.

But another controversial plan—the construction of luxury condos in the main church building—will undergo only standard, internal BRA design review.

The owners of the former Catholic Church property at 365 Centre St., the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and New Atlantic Development, have drawn criticism for the plans. Condos in the church building were always part of the development plan, which dates back to 2006, but the sale of the former Norbert School to an apartment developer was done recently with no public input.

The developers already have built more than 80 units of affordable rental and ownership housing elsewhere on the church site.

Because the Norbert building plan would change the original proposed use, it would require full BRA design review, including at least one community meeting, according to BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler.

In addition, a CAC composed of community members that was appointed by the mayor in 2006 would be “reconvened because they were part of the planning process for the whole site,” Schuler said. The CAC would hold additional meetings about the plan.

It is still unclear whether that plan will be formally filed. It has been in a “due diligence” phase to demonstrate its financial feasibility.

The condo plan for the church building has changed somewhat, with a slightly lower number of units, and New Atlantic agreeing to buy out the JPNDC’s share in the ownership. But those changes do not trigger a new, full-scale BRA review, Schuler said, because the plan is essentially the same as that approved years ago.

“Approved is approved is approved, if you will, even if there’s a five-year gap in the [development] timeframe,” she said.

The approval was contingent on ongoing design review by a BRA architect, largely for the look and feel of the project. That review would go ahead as usual, Schuler said. It would not require community meetings.

Rebeca Oliveira contributed to this article.