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Hyde Square Task Force seeks buyer for church

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Hyde Square Task Force seeks buyer for church
After unsuccessfully seeking to redevelop the Blessed Sacrament Church as a performing arts space, the Hyde Square Task Force is seeking to sell the property. BANNER PHOTO

After six years of searching for the right partner for its new youth cultural center, the Hyde Square Task Force is selling the Blessed Sacrament Church building and abandoning the project.

The HSTF is an organization focused on youth development and social change in the Hyde Square and Jackson Square neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain. The original plan for the abandoned church building was to find a development partner who would help them turn it into a performing arts space.

“In our last attempt to find a partner, we required community space for 250 to 300 people as part of the redevelopment. We believe that this, combined with the high cost of renovation and limited uses given the church’s size and layout, made it a less feasible endeavor,” said Celina Miranda, the executive director of HSTF.

“HSTF cannot afford the ongoing cost of maintaining a large, empty, deteriorating building with no feasible path to renovation or financial sustainability,” she told the Banner.

The previous owners, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp., had planned to turn the church into condominiums.

A former HSTF member fears that the church could be heading down that path again – in a letter to the current board, Damaris Pimentel said, “While I am happy to have been part of this great program, we have not yet followed through with the youth on all our promises … Given the thousands of hours that I have put in as a volunteer it is very disappointing to hear that the Task Force will sell the church with no restrictions and without talking to the community.”

The task force has responded to Pimentel privately, and maintains that the sale without restrictions will ultimately benefit the youth of the Latin Quarter cultural district.

“It will allow us to continue to own and operate out of the Cheverus building, where we currently run our programs, for many years to come,” Miranda said. 

Pimentel told the Banner that former task force members are “very engaged to see if we can find a solution to help the Hyde Square Task Force create this cultural center.” In 2010, she was originally in support of the affordable housing planned for other buildings on the church property.

“It’s good to have a little bit of market value. And keeping that balance is a challenge for our neighborhood, because gentrification will change that unique taste of diversity that Jamaica Plain has,” she told WBUR at the time. JPNDC had already begun construction on housing in other parts of the property when they received significant opposition from the task force when it came to the church building itself. They sold it to the task force in 2014.

Miranda said there is no deadline for the sale and no particular developer in mind for the site. Pimentel expressed that this is where the problem lies.

“If they become just market-value apartments, it’s just going to keep moving towards the gentrification of a community that no longer identifies as the Boston Latin Quarter,” Pimentel said.

Miranda said that ideally, the task force would rather have a developer that keeps the community in mind. However, “We know that placing a long list of restrictions would reduce interest in the property,” she said.

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