To help ensure the longevity of its programming for youth in the City, the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) Board of Directors has announced it will be selling the former Blessed Sacrament Church—a building the organization has owned since 2014.
HSTF Executive Director Celina Miranda told the Gazette that the original plans for the building were to create an arts and cultural center “where the community could come together for performances; to gather.” She said a full plan had never been formed, but the organization had purchased the building because they saw it as a gathering space and a place where HSTF’s work with youth could be amplified.
Since the purchase six years ago, HSTF has been trying to figure out how to make the idea come to life, and last year a Request For Proposal was issued with the hope of finding a partner to help redevelop the site into the space they envisioned, Miranda said.
“We did not get a viable response,” she added.
The building, which is not up to code, has been vacant except for one event that was held some time ago with special permission, Miranda said. A press release from HSTF states that according to records, “the property has been in disrepair since as far back as 1991 and data gathered by the organization have developed a cost estimate of multiple millions of dollars to restore the structural integrity of the building for the end use of a community and cultural center.”
Miranda explained that expenses for upkeep of the building total more than $100,000 each year, and owning the building has put HSTF $500,000 in debt since the purchase.
The costs include mortgage and insurance costs, as well as condo and maintenance fees.
After not being able to find a partner, “we were left with three options,” Miranda said: either demolish the building, renovate the building themselves, or sell the building.
She said they crossed demolition off the list because the church is a “very important building in the neighborhood, so we realized that’s not an option.”
Renovating the building would cost multi millions of dollars, which would not be viable for the organization, especially after the pandemic hit and there is a “lot of uncertainty around philanthropy,” Miranda said. “The pandemic has brought a different sort of urgency. It’s not feasible to carry the cost.”
That left selling the building as the only option. HSTF made the difficult decision with the “understanding that we needed to make sure we keep in mind that we want to continue to be in existence and serve our young people,” Miranda said.
She said that while the pandemic did speed up the decision making process about the building, it “affirmed probably where we would have landed anyway.”
The release states: “The need among the Boston youth served by the HSTF programs remains as great as ever and will likely increase in scope as community organizations respond to the disruptions in education and enrichment for youths inside and outside of Boston.”
Miranda added, ¡°Unquestionably, times like these have made our mission-based work more critical and important than ever. The HSTF youth depend upon our programs and services to foster their intellectual, creative and academic capabilities, and we believe this need will only grow.”
Miranda said that when looking for a buyer, the organization would “look favorably to any group that would make some community space available,” but it would not be a requirement of the sale.
“This was a heart wrenching decision,” Miranda said. “It was difficult to come to this point. It’s a beautiful structure, it’s a beautiful building.”
She said that despite that, HSTF had to keep its eye on its mission to engage youth in ways that build their voices and creativity, working towards a more equitable city.
She said the decision was not an easy one, but “we want to continue to see residents come together. We’ve been around for 30 years and we want to be around for a lot more.”
On August 6 at 6pm, a virtual community meeting will be held, “where members of the HSTF and other key stakeholders will share information and explain the process that resulted in the HSTF Board’s recent decision to sell the property,” HSTF said in the release. More information can be found at hydesquare.org.