(Image courtesy Google Maps)
Members of the South Boston community who object to the proposed demolition of the St. Augustine’s School won a small victory Wednesday night. The Boston Landmarks Commission voted to impose a 90-day delay on the residential project.
The delay in no way saves the former Catholic school at 205 E St. from demolition, but allows the community and developers further time to discuss alternatives.
Plans proposed in the past for the school by developers Paul Adamson, Mark Cummins, and Bruce Daniel include constructing two three-story buildings for 48 two-bedroom units and 64 underground parking spaces. Some of the parking would be used for the units proposed to fill the St. Augustine’s Church, three streets away.
There was no hearing on the future of the St. Augustine’s Church at 225 Dorchester St., because developers said they believe the structure can possibly be saved and reused.
At Wednesday’s hearing in City Hall, a few residents testified before the Commission on the importance of the structure emotionally and historically to the community. A number of letters were also submitted opposing the developers’ plans for the building that was constructed in 1893.
“These buildings show the history of the Catholic church not just in South Boston, but the city,” Donna Brown, a South Boston resident, told the Commission. “They’re a really important part of South Boston.”
“It would significantly impact the community to lose any part of the St. Augustine’s Complex,” Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance said.
Many voiced support for a delay to allow for more community input and analysis of the alternatives.
“While we do appreciate the church demolition has been being taking off…Councilor Linehan would like to go on the record asking for the 90-day delay,” said Mark McGonagle, a representative from City Councilor Bill Linehan’s office. “There was certain discussions around design that weren’t set in stone so we want to make sure there is an appropriate community process going forward now that the church is off the table.”
In addition to the 90-day Demolition Delay, any project for the structures would have to go through the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Article 80 review process, which includes a public meeting.
The church and school were closed in 2004 by the Archdiocese of Boston because of mounting financial pressures. Since then, the structures have sat unused and in deteriorating shape, stripped of their alters, pews, stained glass, windows, and other valuable property by the Archdiocese.
Daniel also addressed the Commission Wednesday. He said it’s not the school’s condition that’s the problem, but parking at the church on Dorchester Street. Preliminary plans have proposed rehabbing the church for housing, but because of the limited parking options at the church, the school would have to be razed and underground parking would have to be added for both buildings at the site.
“No one is saying it’s not feasible to adapt or reuse [the school building],” Daniel, told the Commission. “But you can’t look at both of these buildings in isolation. We want to take down the school, restore the church and provide 64-spaces in an underground garage at the school.”
A community meeting about alternative and future uses of the property is expected to be held in the coming weeks.