January 4, 2023 Historic Blessed Sacrament church approved for affordable housing and community space for Jamaica Plain
A plan by Pennrose Development that preserves and adapts the historic Blessed Sacrament Church in Jamaica Plain’s Hyde Square for affordable housing units was approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency in December.
Working in tandem with the property’s owner, the Hyde Square Task Force, Pennrose will redevelop the historic building for 55 units of income-restricted housing serving income ranges from 50% to 120% Area Median Income, and will reserve nearly 6500 square feet of the former Roman Catholic church as performance and community space.
Built in 1917, the present Blessed Sacrament was designed by Boston architect Charles R. Greco, a prolific designer of churches, synagogues and public buildings in the Boston area, throughout Massachusetts, and in the Midwest. The congregation’s first priest, Reverend Arthur T. Connolly, served Blessed Sacrament from 1892 until 1931 and was responsible for the campus of buildings there, including the church, a rectory, a convent, a primary school, the Chevrus School and St. Norbert’s School.
Greco’s design for Blessed Sacrament expresses Italian Renaissance design influences, with highly decorative brick and terracotta exterior, and an octagonal tower in the center of the church. Before closing in the early 2000s, the church contained many fine examples of ecclesiastical art including stained glass windows by Boston artist Charles Connick and stations of the cross by the sculptor Johannes Kirchmayer.
Initially serving immigrants from Germany and Ireland, Blessed Sacrament’s congregation was largely attended by the neighborhood’s burgeoning Latino population by the 1980s and 90s. By that time, the building’s repair had declined significantly and was beyond the financial capacity of the church. The Catholic Archdiocese closed the structure in 2004, removing most of the church’s stained glass and religious art. The Archdiocese sold the church to a partnership of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation and New Atlantic Development which made valiant efforts to redevelop the structure for housing, only to hindered by the challenging financial markets after 2008.
In 2014 the Hyde Square Task Force purchased the building with the goal of converting it to an arts and civic space. Until now, the massive historic structure has proven challenging to convert for performance space due to the extraordinary costs of restoration. Its limited window openings also constrained opportunities to convert the building to housing or commercial uses. Pennrose’s plan expands the footprint of the church with multi-story additions to the structure at the rear, while sensitively modifying window opening to allow for greater light into the residential units on five floors. At the church’s Centre Street façade is the entrance to a 6475 square foot multi-use space for community gatherings and performances, a space that fulfills the Hyde Square Task Force’s goals of a central community space for the neighborhood.
The church and surrounding campus was designated a Boston Landmark in 2022. In its new life, Blessed Sacrament stands to be a vibrant reminder of the Jamaica Plain’s growth and development and an example of creative adaptive reuse of historic buildings in Boston.