Tensions appear to be running high between, on one hand, advocates of affordable housing and some parts of JP's Latin community and, on the other, their longtime ally the .
The cause: The future of the remaining undeveloped parcels on the Blessed Sacrament campus. The Neighborhood Development Corp. has brokered a deal to bring 32 or so market-rate condos to the long-vacant Blessed Sacrament Church in the heart of Hyde Square. Also at issue is the old Norbert School Building.
The Neighborhood Development Corp. says the plan is in keeping with the community's overall vision for the entire campus — one in which at least 50 percent of the units on the campus as a whole are affordable. They say the market-rate housing is crucial to the rest of the project's viability.
But some residents who are usually allies of the Development Corp. are coming out strongly against the plan.
"I don't think we see things the same way on the campus," co-founder Ken Tangvik told Richard Thal, executive director of the Development Corp., in a tense meeting of the on Tuesday. "We need to re-look at the whole campus. Thirty-two luxury condos will not fit into the Latin Quarter vision that we have."
Oliver De Leon, a member of the Neighborhood Council, warned Thal that support within the Latino community for the Neighborhood Development Corp. is wavering.
The community had come together in the mid-2000s to ensure that the Archdiocese of Boston sold the shuttered Blessed Sacrament campus to neighborhood-minded groups.
New Atlantic Development and the Neighborhood Development Corp. bought the entire campus back in December 2005 for $6 million. It was a moment of jubilation for advocates of affordable housing and a community-guided vision for what that area of Hyde Square would become.
Several pieces of the campus have indeed been redeveloped: The (including retail space that will ), the Sister Virginia Mulhern House (which has 28 single-occupancy units for the formerly homeless) and Creighton Commons (affordable condos for first-time buyers).
But the rebirths of the church itself and the Norbert School are stalled.
The delays have put pressure on the Neighborhood Development Corp'.s finances. It hemorrhages $10,000 a month on the long-delayed church and Norbert School parcels, according to Andrew Winter, director of real estate.
A plan is in the "feasibility testing" phase for North Atlantic Development to convert the church into about 32 market-rate condos. The president of the firm told the Gazette the prices would range from $269,000 to $725,000. Most of them would be in the $400,000 range. The median price for a condo in JP is $375,000, according to Mass Realty, while they figure the average price as $416,412.
But while Thal and the Neighborhood Development Corp. defend the plan as fitting with the community's 2005 vision, others say the country's economic crisis and gentrification pressures within Hyde Square have changed the calculus. That was the view of Martha Rodriguez, a member of the Neighborhood Council.
Tangvik, the Hyde Square Task Force co-founder, urged the Neighborhood Development Corp. to apply the kind of creativity it did when developing The Brewery. In a letter to the Gazette, Tangvik argued for Blessed Sacrament to become a Latin American Arts/Cultural Center. Other ideas that have been floated include a housing co-op and school.
But Thal replied that they have exhaustively looked at other uses for the properties. And the numbers just do not add up.
"The idea we haven't looked hard at this is a good rhetorical point," Thal said, "but it doesn't hold up."
Thal said his nonprofit was working hard to put together financing so that four of the church condos could be in the "affordable" category.
At Tuesday's Neighborhood Council meeting, held at , there was talk of a possible neighborhood meeting about the issue in September.