Business

BC to purchase 24-acre synagogue site in Newton

School says it will use land for parking, office space

 Temple leaders say that the Mishkan Tefila congregation has dwindled to about 300 families.

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff

Temple leaders say that the Mishkan Tefila congregation has dwindled to about 300 families.

Boston College has reached a deal to buy a rare large tract of mostly open land in Chestnut Hill, the 24-acre home of Congregation Mishkan Tefila on Hammond Pond Parkway in Newton.

The school said it intends for now to use the largely wooded site for parking and administrative offices.

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The property is about a mile from the main Boston College campus, near The Mall at Chestnut Hill but surrounded by conservation land.

Considered the oldest Conservative synagogue in Greater Boston, Mishkan Tefila has occupied its most recent site since the mid-1950s, when it acquired the property from the state. But its congregation has shrunk by more than half over the years, to around 300 member families, and the synagogue is ready to move to smaller quarters, said president Paul Gershkowitz.

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“We realize that we need to think of ourselves differently as we plan for the future,” Gershkowitz said. “Our congregation is older and smaller than in the past, and our current building no longer suits our needs.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The congregation had talked with several housing developers who were interested in the site, but such a sale would have been tricky because Mishkan Tefila’s agreement with the state when it acquired the property mandates that it be used as a religious or educational facility for a century.

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“That was one of the things that drove us to work something out with BC,” said Ted Tye, a developer who acted as a consultant to Mishkan Tefila.

The college intends to use the site for overflow parking and offices that do not need to be on the main campus, said spokesman Jack Dunn. There are no plans for student housing or academic buildings there, he said. Mainly, Dunn said, the college saw an opportunity to acquire land close by.

“It’s rare that a property of that size comes up that we can acquire,” Dunn said.

Boston College may need city approvals to change uses, but Dunn said he did not expect that would be a problem, as it’s planning no major development and the site’s only immediate neighbor is the mall. If anything, he said, the new parking should ease congestion on roads closer to campus.

“We’d anticipate it’ll be well-received” by city officials and neighbors, Dunn said. “It would actually reduce traffic impact.”

The deal is set to close next year, pending approval by the Mishkan Tefila congregation and Boston College’s Board of Trustees.

It allows the synagogue to stay on the site until 2019, giving Mishkan Tefila, which occupied several locations in Roxbury and Dorchester before moving to Newton in 1955, time to figure out its next move.

“We are early on in exploring the possibilities that might emerge,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, who said Mishkan Tefila could partner with another institution, perhaps in a smaller footprint. “We’re not flying blind.”

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.
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