Historic Boston, Inc. yesterday filed plans with the BPD to build a three-story, 14-unit condo building on Hawthorne Street in Roxbury, behind the currently empty St. James African Orthodox Church on Cedar Street, which the group would renovate into commercial space after completing the condos.
All of the condos, split between one- and two-bedroom units, would be sold to people making no more than the Boston area median income.
City Realty had originally bought the church, for $1 million, in 2015 and planned to tear it down for replacement by 30 market-rate residential units. After an outcry in the neighborhood - and an injunction filed by the city - the company agreed to sell the church to Historic Boston in 2018, at a 40% markup over what it had paid for the property.
In recent years, Historic Boston has developed projects that feature modern construction as a way to preserve a historic building on a site. In Roslindale, for example, it worked with a developer to renovate a former Boston Elevated trolley power substation into what is now a beer hall - with apartments in a new building wrapped around it.
According to the group's filing, the church was built in 1908 as the Norwegian Evangelical Congregational Church, in "a style that combined Gothic and Shingle style influences, as well as elements of Norwegian traditional ecclesiastical design." St. James bought the church n 1955, when the Norwegian congregation moved to Waltham.
HBI says it does not yet have a specific tenant for the church - where renovations would include opening up loft space near the top for daily use - but says:
Our goal is to identify a use that will allow for occasional public access to the rehabilitated sanctuary, as requested by the neighborhood. Additionally, we are making an effort to identify a use that can accommodate periodic assemblies by the neighborhood’s Nathan Hale school.
50 Cedar St. small-project review application (9.6M PDF).
The church after renovations: