Urban Edge bids for church land


FOREST HILLS—Local non-profit community development corporation Urban Edge submitted a bid April 23 to the broker responsible for selling the over 3-acre St. Andrew the Apostle Church complex on Walk Hill Street for the Archdiocese of Boston, according to Mossik Hacobian, executive director of Urban Edge.

“[If Urban Edge wins the bid] it will either be a housing and school complex, or a housing complex,” said Hacobian.

Michael Foley, the broker handling the account, would not release any information about other bidders, but said there were other bidders, Hacobian said in a Gazette phone interview.

In the past, Foley has said the Archdiocese does not make the information public, but the decision is made within the Catholic Church and based on money, mission, feasibility and viability. A decision could be made by the end of May.

Urban Edge hosted two community meetings in conjunction with the Young Achievers Math and Science Pilot School at the school on Walk Hill Street before submitting its bid to collect community input to help shape its proposal.

Representatives from Urban Edge and the school say the school needs to expand to accommodate its growing demand and space needs.

At those meetings Urban Edge presented plans for Young Achievers to immediately occupy some of the already existing structures at the parcel and to develop more than 50 units of housing. A number of neighbors felt that was too dense, but supported the school’s expansion. They also said a walk-zone should be part of the expansion to ensure there was a community school for their children to attend.

St. Andrew’s church closed in 2000. The adjacent elementary school closed in 2005.

A group of neighbors in the Woodbourne neighborhood hosted a meeting in early April to discuss what they would like to see at St. Andrew’s. That meeting was dominated by voices from people in favor of ownership who claimed owners have a higher stake in and care more about the community, because they would be in it longer and therefore have more of an invested interest than renters. The majority of those neighbors also expressed fears about the rate of density 50 more units would create. There was minimal support for affordable housing.

The initial proposal presented by Urban Edge and the school, which included a major school expansion, was not supported by BPS due to financial tensions within the school department.

Hacobian said the bid reflected what the BPS and neighbors have said. He said if Urban Edge does win the bid, Young Achievers could expand into some of the buildings by next fall.

In the long term, if BPS does not support Young Achievers expansion plans and if Urban Edge does win the bid, Urban Edge will look for another institution to occupy the space or develop housing, according to Hacobian.

If Urban Edge is successful there will be more community meetings before any construction begins. Hacobian said that could happen by fall, 2008.

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