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Condo conversion planned for former Savio School

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  December 28, 2010 05:43 PM

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A former parochial school in East Boston may soon see new life as a condominium complex.

Chelsea-based real estate developer Coliseum Investment Group plans to convert the former St. Dominic Savio Preparatory High School into 25 to 30 condominiums ranging from studios of around 700 square feet up to two-bedroom units of roughly twice that size.

Most of the condos will be priced at market rate, with three to five affordable units, as required by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The largest, planned for the top floor, would be luxury units with roof decks, priced above $300,000.

Nestor J. Limas, principal at CIG, said the goal is to “really take advantage of the Orient Heights neighborhood that has, when you get on the rooftop, spectacular views of the airport, the Boston skyline and Orient Heights Beach.”

The former Savio School at the corner of Byron and Horace streets closed in 2007, after multiple efforts to save it were unsuccessful. It was founded in 1958 by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Catholic order that still maintains the Boys & Girls Club across Byron Street from the school building.

Limas’ brother Oswaldo, who is working with the architects on plans for the conversion, has a daughter who graduated from Savio in 2006, so the family is sensitive to the many neighbors with emotional attachments to the school.

The developers have previously worked on other projects in the neighborhood, including the condo building at 145-147 Everett St., and they hope to play a role in the ongoing growth of East Boston, Limas said.

“I’m a firm believer in the revitalization of East Boston, not to mention the spectacular waterfront that it has,” Limas said. “When East Boston looks at downtown Boston, it’s an amazing view.”

Limas said he and his partners had looked at traffic data for the school from its founding in 1958 through its closing, as well as data on traffic related to the Boys & Girls Club, and their conclusion was that using the building for residences would actually create less car traffic for the neighborhood than the school had.

“The school housed X amount of students, and then they had all the ancillary pickups and drop-offs during peak hours in the morning and peak hours during school release, and there was all the sporting events, and there was all the functions that were associated with the school — plays, awards, dinners, PTA meetings, etc.,” Limas said. “So when you look at that as one data set relative to X amount of units in the building, it’s a diminished use.”

Before they can proceed, the developers must get approvals from both the BRA and the Inspectional Services Department. Limas expects that process to take about six months, which would then be followed by about a year of construction. He hopes to have the building ready for occupancy sometime in summer 2012.

The developers have had preliminary meetings with the BRA, though they have not submitted a plan for the conversion as yet. Before they do that, they will hold a series of community meetings to discuss the plans with neighbors and hear their concerns. The first is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 24 at the Boys & Girls Club.

“I firmly believe that this is a combined, organic process whereby we have to take into account the neighbors, the parking issues, some of the concerns,” Limas said. “There’s a lot of sympathy and emotion behind the closing of the Dom Savio School, so now when people look at what’s going to happen there, we really want to be sensitive to the community and host these meetings, as many as we need.”

Limas said the plans had so far been met with support from community members and local elected officials.

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