HBI Unveils Draft Plans for St. James African Orthodox Church Site

HBI Unveils Draft Plans for St. James African Orthodox Church Site

Historic Boston, Inc. (HBI) introduced the first phase of its plan for the former St. James African Orthodox Church at 50 Cedar Street in Roxbury to the Highland Park neighborhood in September.  The proposal outlines the construction of 14 new units of home-ownership units, 100% of which will be available to people making 80 – 100% of Area Median Income.  

Although new construction is a rare undertaking for HBI, construction of these units, which will be placed on the former church’s parking lot, will help to offset costs associated with the acquisition and historic rehabilitation of the church, which will be undertaken as a second phase.  HBI conceives of the church’s re-use for non-profit or commercial space, although a partner has not been identified for that space.  

HBI purchased the historic church in 2018 from developer City Realty, which 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 protest from neighborhood leaders, a petition was accepted for its designation as a Boston Landmark and an injunction, filed by Mayor Martin Walsh, City Realty agreed to sell the church to Historic Boston.

The historic church was built in 1910 for the Norwegian Evangelical Congregational Church and was home to that congregation’s worship and social services until 1955.  At that time, St. James African Orthodox Church, a congregation formed in Lower Roxbury in the 1920s, purchased the structure.  African Orthodoxy was a Christian church founded by Boston-trained doctor George McGuire and built on the ideas of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA).  St. James’ congregation worshipped there until 2015.  

Working with the architectural firm of Hacin + Associates, HBI is moving forward with permitting review of the new structure with the community through the Boston Planning and Development.  Stay tuned for more opportunities review this proposal, and for forthcoming updates about project progress.