More than a year has transpired since the sale of the historic former Blessed Sacrament Church building at 365 Centre St., but its future remains unclear.
Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF), a youth-oriented nonprofit, finalized in February 2014 the purchase of the building from Church Square Partners, which is a partnership between the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and New Atlantic Development. The purchase followed years of stalled redevelopment efforts that culminated in a controversial plan for high-end residential units.
HSTF said at the time it planned to use the church building for community arts and events space. But the plans have yet to materialize.
HSTF did not return a request for comment.
Claudio Martinez, former executive director of HSTF, spearheaded the drive to buy the church building. He resigned in December and was replaced by interim director Yi-Chin Chen.
When the Gazette asked JPNDC if it was concerned about the building not having been renovated yet, spokesperson Sally Swenson said, “We totally understand, and understood at the time of the sale, that it would take many years to raise the funds needed to renovate the church.”
JPNDC and New Atlantic Development bought the Blessed Sacrament Church campus in 2005 and had planned to turn the church into condos before selling to HSTF under community pressure. Peter Roth of New Atlantic Development said during negotiations over the sale in 2013 that it would cost “several million dollars” to renovate the aging building.
Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, said it’s “always best” when a historic building maintains its original use, as that means fewer changes to it. But, he said, “We all recognize that keeping the original use is becoming increasingly challenging.” He buttressed that point by noting that changing demographics reduces the chance of churches remaining in religious use.
“The Boston Preservation Alliance generally supports renovations to churches that meet the needs of Boston’s communities today, while continuing to preserve the historical integrity and unique architectural characteristics of the church building in question,” said Galer. “Converting churches into housing or community space often has a positive outcome.”
He said that it’s “never ideal” for buildings to “remain unused over a significant period of time” and that it would be “beneficial” to the community and Blessed Sacrament Church building to “see some progress” to the plan of turning it into a “community arts and cultural center.”
“Continued lack of use and attention to maintenance typically raises the expenses of a project, so we hope the project at Blessed Sacrament finds a path to move forward,” said Galer.