By John Lynds
The owners of the Mount Carmel Church and surrounding properties kicked off what is sure to be an extensive community process regarding the redevelopment of the site.
At a Gove Street Citizens Association (GSCA) meeting Monday night representatives for the Frankfort and Gove Street LLC, who purchased the property in 2015 for $3 million, laid out preliminary plans for the 50,000 sq. ft. site that includes the former Mount Carmel Church, rectory, convent, hall and the large parcel of land used as a parking lot along Frankfort Street.
Attorney for Frankfort and Gove Street LLC, Jeff Drago, said his clients’ preliminary vision for the site is to keep and renovate the church and convert the structure into 14 condo units. The developer will raze both the rectory and convent and replace those buildings with new residential structures. The parking lot would then consist of a townhouse-style residential building. The entire development would be a mix of market rate condos and rental units with two of the buildings being six stories.
The proposed development as it stands now would add 122 additional units to the neighborhood with 77 underground parking spaces.
“This is perhaps the largest development project in this area and after talking with residents and abutters we are trying to come up with a project that is feasible for both the developer and the neighborhood,” said Drago. “The first thing we did was meet with folks individually on a plan that keeps the church intact while trying to figure out the best way to develop the other three parcels that are part of the site.”
Drago said the breakdown would be 12 studio units, 53 one-bedroom units, 45 two-bedroom units and 12 three-bedroom units.
At Monday’s meeting Drago cautioned GSCA members that the initial presentation was just the beginning of the process.
“This is by no means the final product,” he said. “This is going to be a lengthy process that involves community meet ins, abutters meetings, the formation of an Impact Advisory Group to deal with design and mitigation as well as the stringent Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Article 80 review process.”
Right off the bat GSCA members like GSCA Chairwoman Gina Scalcione had a problem with the height of some of the buildings. Scalcione took a hard line on the proposed six and four story structures and said nothing should be taller than the current homes along Frankfort and Gove Streets.
Many residents at the meeting did not like the modern design of some of the buildings that included a mix of glass and other materials and asked the developer to consider replicating the architectural styles of the turn of the 20th Century brick buildings along Frankfort Street.
Others had a problem with density of the overall project and thought 122 units was far too many. There was also a request to save the 1950s-era convent and rectory. However, Drago said that his client is going to have to spend a significant amount of capital to renovate the church and keep the historic structure part of the community.
“There needs to be a certain number of units that works for the developer so he can recoup some of the costs keeping the church intact,” said Drago. “Again, this is only the beginning of the process and a lot will change but when we get into requests to keep the rectory intact and the convent intact and significantly reducing the number of units and heights of buildings it becomes an impossible project financially.”
Drago said his client had already looked at ways to incorporate the other existing structures, like the rectory and convent, into the overall project but there are too many code and structural issues that would make keeping those buildings a huge fiscal challenge. One issue is the ceiling heights in the convent are around six feet. In order to bring the building up to code each floor would have to have ceiling heights of 7.5 feet. This, Drago said, would be a daunting challenge for any structural engineer to find ways to recoup and reuse space within an already confined building.
The Boston Archdiocese closed the Mount Carmel Church Columbus Day weekend in 2004. The closure of the church kicked off a seven year vigil by Mount Carmel Parishioners, like Gina Scalcione and Benny Tauro, to keep the church open. The church closed in 2011.
It was announced in September 2015 that Frankfort and Gove Street LLC had purchased the church and property for $3.04 million.