Roxbury church building saved from demolition
A real estate developer will not demolish the former St. James African Orthodox Church building in Roxbury after Historic Boston Inc. agreed to purchase the property and work with the community on future plans for the site, the city announced Wednesday.
“We look forward to working with the community to find a feasible and positive reuse that complements the neighborhoods’ goals and preserves a century of neighborhood history,” said Kathy Kottaridis, executive director of Historic Boston, in a statement.
The nonprofit organization redevelops historic buildings across Boston that it considers “at-risk,” of demolition, according to its website.
Neighborhood advocates have worked for months to save the empty building at 50 Cedar St. from the wrecking ball, after City Realty Group proposed tearing down the church and building housing on the site.
In June, Highland Park neighborhood residents made their case at a city hearing to have the church designated a landmark, which would have protected it from many significant changes. But last week, residents noticed a construction crew cutting off the water supply to the building, a first step toward demolition, and called on the city to intervene.
The Boston Landmark Commission last week granted the church emergency landmark status, protecting it from demolition for at least 90 days.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who spoke about the church with neighbors at a community event last week, said in a statement Wednesday that he was “delighted” about the sale and what it meant for the church. He also committed to working with Historic Boston to restore and find a new use for the site.
“It has been made clear by local residents that this church has been an integral part of their community for many years and still has an important role to play in the neighborhood’s future,” he said. “We will continue to work closely with Historic Boston as they engage in an open dialogue with the community about the long-term future of this site.”
Rodney Singleton, a longtime Highland Park resident who lives near the church, said in a statement that he was grateful to those who helped save the church, and for the message that it sent about its value compared with other notable sites in the city.
“Their collective efforts to the community speaks volumes and says this church is just as important as that tower on Fort Hill, or Trinity Church in Back Bay, and that threats to unjust historic preservation in Roxbury are threats to just preservation citywide,” Singleton said.
City Realty Group could not immediately be reached for comment.