The towering, decaying Church of the Blessed Sacrament in the heart of Boston’s Latin Quarter is about to be given a breath of new life by a developer with a proven track record in similar projects.
The Hyde Square Task Force told GBH News exclusively on Monday that its board had selected Pennrose as the developer of the 108-year-old church for a mixed-use project, which includes much-needed affordable housing for the area and public performance spaces for artists. and youth.
“We recognize that this is the start of a partnership with Pennrose,” said Celina Miranda, executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force. “The HSTF Board of Directors believes that Pennrose has the greatest likelihood of achieving a great outcome for the community and for our organization.”
A group of former parishioners, Jamaica Plain residents and activists called Friends of the Blessed Sacrament told GBH News they applauded the developer’s choice, citing Pennrose’s experience and the housing options he will bring to the region.
“The proposed housing mix which includes a significant amount of affordable housing that will allow residents and families from a wide range of incomes to be able to settle in Saint-Sacrement,” the group said in a statement.
Friends of the Blessed Sacrament rebuffed the task force when the church was initially put up for sale without restrictions, fearing the space would be converted into expensive housing.
Charlie Adams, New England regional vice president at Pennrose, told GBH News the company incorporated more affordable housing into its proposal in response to community feedback. Final calculations, he said, are underway.
“Our goal is to preserve and transform this beloved historic asset into a high-quality mixed-use development that residents, neighbors and the surrounding community can enjoy,” said Adams.
Of the 52 new housing units proposed, more than half will be affordable housing, the task force told GBH News, with 20 units at 120% of average median income, 16 at 60%, 8 units at 50% and 8 to 30%.
Miranda said the council chose Pennrose because of the benefits to the neighborhood in the form of a 200-person performance space, capital support to help pay off the church task force’s property debt and consideration in the naming of the new building.
The task force will retain a stake in the proposed 200-seat performance space, Adams confirmed.
Pennrose will buy the church for less than its asking price of $2.5 million, although the price and terms of sale are still being negotiated.
Two other finalists were competing to develop the space: NuVu Studio, who proposed a private secondary school in the building, and Alvarado & Beaujean, who also submitted a plan for housing and performance space, but with more restrictions on community use.
Doña Betsaida Gutiérrez, a former parishioner and longtime community activist who raised concerns about the community sale process to GBH News in July, said she appreciated the increased public engagement of HSTF and the community.
“Thanks to your work and your voice, the members of the Hyde Square Task Force Board of Directors have made the right choice in selecting Pennrose as the future developer of Blessed Sacrament Church,” she said.
The task force bought the building in 2014 with the aim of creating a youth center, but scrapped the plan when they couldn’t find a developer. Other spaces on the property were converted into 80 affordable housing units under a previous owner, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, which in turn purchased the property from the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005.
Pennrose was founded in 1971 with the goal “to have a profound impact on the lives of working families through the development of affordable housing,” according to its website. Since then he has been involved in 265 developments, many of them in Boston. The developer is work on Boston’s first LGBTQ-supported senior housing in Hyde Park, to be housed in the former William Barton Rogers Middle School.
The development process has only just begun. Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Salon and leader of the Latin Quarter Business Association, said she hopes and expects “the task force and Pennrose will continue to engage residents, merchants and the other members of the Latin Quarter as the project progresses.”