Church reuses would cost millions

A consultant has found high costs for renovating the former Blessed Sacrament church building into either a performance/community center or affordable housing, it was announced during a community meeting Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, Jason Hutchinson and the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) presented proposals to turn the church building into a performance/community center, but neither have any funding lined up.

Leslie Bos of Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) said the organization would consider investing in some affordable housing at the building, as it has said it would before. But, Bos said, JPNDC would have to decide “is this the best fit” for the organization’s resources.

With no financially viable options, it looks likely the former church building’s fate will be luxury condos.

Viva Consulting found that in order to turn the building into a performance/community center, there would have to be a capital campaign to raise about $9 million. Viva went through several scenarios for affordable housing, which had funding shortages ranging from $2.2 million to $9 million.

About 35 attended the meeting at the Julia Martin House. The meeting was the second of three meetings held by the JPNDC. A third meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Julia Martin House.

The current plan is to turn the building, a former Roman Catholic church built more than 80 years ago, into luxury condos. When the plan was first announced last summer, there was significant opposition due to concerns about gentrification.

JPNDC and New Atlantic Development co-own the church building and the Blessed Sacrament complex. They are open to other options if they are financially feasible. Bos said they would consider selling the building for $1.2 million, but time is winding down. The partners are currently paying real estate taxes, maintenance and condo fees on the building, among other costs.

“We need someone to step up and buy the church,” she said. “It’s becoming a burden.”

Peter Roth of New Atlantic Development echoed her sentiments.

“It’s just bleeding our organizations,” he said.

Hutchinson handed out a proposal to attendees to turn the building into a marketplace and community center. He listed CropCircle Kitchen (CCK), a JP-based nonprofit, as a potential operating partner, but CCK is already expanding to a facility at another location in Boston, thought it is not there yet. It is unclear if Hutchinson has contacted CCK.

Hutchinson said that getting the funding is the easy part, but said he did not currently have funding lined up.

An official from HSTF said it would be interested in turning the building into a performance space for dance, theater programs, weddings and other uses. But, Ken Tangvik of HSTF said, it has never had a capital campaign for such a large amount of money.

“Nine million dollars is way beyond anything we have done before,” Tangvik, who noted that the organization has an operating budget of $2.5 million that it raises every year.

He added, “The whole community would have to rally.”

HSTF Executive Director Claudio Martinez did not attend or speak at the meeting. HSTF already owns a building on the Blessed Sacrament campus.

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