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St. Augustine's Church and School eyed for condos

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 15, 2013 03:45 PM

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(Patrick. D. Rosso/

St. Augustine's Church on Dorchester Street.

Developers are eying the St. Augustine's Church and School in South Boston for a possible condominium development, which could lead to the demolition of both structures.

Located at 225 Dorchester St., the church has been a place of worship and a community gathering place for decades, hosting marriages, funerals, and baptisms.

It was originally constructed in 1874, according to documents provided by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

The church and school were closed by the Archdiocese of Boston in 2004, because of mounting financial pressures, according to the Boston Globe.

It has since remained vacant, collecting rubbish on its stone steps, and falling into disrepair.

Developers, who purchased the property an approximate two months ago, appeared before a packed house at the Cityside Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night to pitch their plan.

More than 100 residents filled the Boys and Girls Club to hear the presentation.

Before the developer’s pitch, Ed Flynn, an area resident and former chairman of the St. Augustine Council, read a brief statement detailing the importance of the church to the parishioners and the community.

“This development will have a significant impact on the community and tearing it down will create tremendous pain,” Flynn said. “It’s a cornerstone and a landmark. We will work with the developer, but they need to work with us.”

Many nodded in agreement as Flynn read his statement, with some adding their own personal feelings associated with the church.

Although plans are still very preliminary, current proposals call for the demolition of both the church and the school.

Bruce Daniel, who presented his group’s plans Monday, said everything is still in the very early stages of development and “nothing is set in stone.”

Developers have yet to file their project with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which would trigger a community process, including a public comment period and community meeting.

Current proposals for the church include the demolition of the building and the construction of a three-and-a-half story building for 32 two-bedroom, two-bath condominium units. The highest point of the building would reach up to 42-feet, according to the developer.

Sixty-eight underground parking spaces would be included in the project and 8,000-square-feet would be set aside to house the Community Art Center.

The entrance to the parking garage is currently slated to be located on F Street.

Plans for the school include the demolition of the existing building and the construction of a three-story building for 48 two-bedroom, two-bath condominium units.

Sixty-four underground parking spaces would be included in the project and the highest point of the building would be 35-feet, according to the developer.

The entrance to the parking garage is currently slated for West 8th Street.

While those in attendance seemed to be more receptive to the plans for the school, many were taken aback with the proposed demolition of the church.

Daniel said his group can’t afford the costs of restoring the church, which he said was in “poor condition.”

“We looked at restoring the church, but there are several problems,” said Daniel. “It’s a very expensive process.”

Both structures would also have to go so that parking could be added to the project, developers said. Currently the church’s location doesn’t provide any parking.

Daniel said he doesn’t necessarily want to demolish the church and that he’s open to sell.

“If there is someone who wants to buy this and restore it I’m happy to sit down with them,” said Daniel.

Developers paid $2.4-million for both parcels, Daniel said.

Although some regard the structure as a landmark, it is not registered as such.

A 2004 petition submitted to the Boston Landmarks Commission to designate the church a landmark was rejected.

“The Boston Landmarks Commission, after deliberation and review of testimony, voted not to accept the petition,” read the rejection letter. “To be designated a Boston Landmark, a building must be significant at a city and state, regional or national level.”

Though the site may not be a “landmark” it will still have to go through the Landmarks Commission’s Article 85 Demolition Delay process.

The process slows down any potential project that seeks to demolish a structure older than 50-years until a community process has been conducted and the Commission’s board has reviewed the project. This is separate from the BRA's community process.

Developers were supposed to go before the Commission’s board Jan. 22, but that has since been delayed.

While many still had concerns leaving the meeting Monday night, everything is still very up in the air. The project will not be able to move forward until plans have been filed with the BRA, which has not happened. The project will also have to be reviewed by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in addition to its review by the Landmarks Commission.

A future community meeting has not been set for the project, but one must be held prior to the developers’ new hearing before the Landmarks Commission.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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