Monday, Sept. 9, 2019
Photos are available upon request.

Training, Work Space for Youth and Families at Landmark Church

BOSTON – Historic Boston Inc. and the Timothy Smith Network, a nonprofit
organization that provides technology educational services to the residents of
Roxbury and surrounding communities, are partnering to create a new headquarters
and innovation center for the Timothy Smith Network at the former St. James African
Orthodox Church in Roxbury.

Historic Boston Inc. last year completed acquisition of the former church in Roxbury,
built in 1910 for the former Norwegian Free Evangelical Church, and has worked with
the Highland Park neighborhood to determine re-use scenarios for the 50 Cedar St.

“The historic church is the perfect space for innovation and creativity,” said Kathy
Kottaridis, Executive Director of Historic Boston Inc. “It gives TSN state-of-the-art
space to expand operations and community-based programming, and it shows how
beloved historic buildings can take on new life for future generations of Bostonians.”
Formed in 1996 with funds from the family of Roxbury merchant Timothy Smith, the
Timothy Smith Network mobilized an innovative structure of nonprofit, private sector,
government and philanthropic groups to bridge the digital divide for underserved
demographic groups.

The nonprofit, whose main offices are in Dudley Square, outfits and updates 24
technology labs, located in nonprofit community centers, churches, and senior
centers throughout Roxbury. Over the last 23 years, TSN’s support has broadened
from employing the latest hardware and software to the introduction of robotics, 3D
printers and training partnerships with NASA, Microsoft and AutoDesk.
“This vision creates a hub in Roxbury where access to cutting-edge technology
unlocks the aspirations of underserved communities through 21st century skill
development,” said Milton Irving, Executive Director of the Timothy Smith Network.
“We are deliberately designing a space that strengthens the community through
experiential learning, and gives people the skills they need to design their own futures.”

Timothy Smith Network Technology Labs attract more than 150,000 visits annually of
Greater Roxbury residents of all ages, with emphasis on preparing youth for the
future workforce. The organization invests about $550,000 into the Greater Roxbury
community yearly. Total investment since 1996 is more than $9 million. The average
lab is outfitted with 12 to 30 state-of the-art computers, printers, including 3D printers,
scanners, digital cameras, smart boards, software, workstations and additional
equipment and furnishings as needed.

TSN is also the lead partner in the Boston Design Academy, a cross-sector
consortium comprised of Boston Public Schools, the Boston Public Library, Autodesk,
Microsoft, MassRobotics, and Mbadika instructional videos to increase opportunities
for students to enter college or the workforce at higher wages, or in sector-specific

“At our centers, persistently underserved populations engage in programs and
training that make them ready to enter the burgeoning tech industries in Boston or
wherever life takes them,” Irving said. ”People who otherwise would not have access
to state-of-the-art technology and tech education have access through the Timothy
Smith Network Labs.”

Plans for TSN’s use of the former St. James African Orthodox Church include
classrooms with hardware for product design, software labs, a podcast studio, an
AR/VR development and testing space, and open space for co-working and for the
community to interact with each other. Designed to be a hub for community
interaction, the space will also be available for special events, community gatherings,
and art installations.

TSN’s 15-20 full-time and part-time staff will work in this new space, which is
expected to draw on average of 25-50 visitors daily.
St. James African Orthodox Church, which had been under threat of demolition for
development, is being preserved under a plan devised by the office of Mayor Martin
J. Walsh and Historic Boston Inc. HBI has stabilized the building to prevent
deterioration while the nonprofit organization plans the site’s rehabilitation in
partnership with the Timothy Smith Network.

The church building, which has been closed since 2015, is in poor condition. Its
renewal is anticipated as a $5.8 million adaptive reuse effort for which HBI anticipates
a $3.5 million fundraising campaign. In addition to restoring the historic church, HBI
expects to construct new home ownership units at the rear of the church parcel in
order to help subsidize the historic building’s preservation. The Robert Kuehn
Foundation and the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust have supported due
diligence and predevelopment costs for the project.


The St. James African Orthodox Church is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places as a contributing building with in the Highland Park National Register District.
It is a Boston Landmark for its associations with two phases of immigration to Boston
and for its associations with 20th century civil rights and social justice.

According to a Boston Landmarks Commission study, the church functioned as the
African Orthodox Church from 1955 to 2015 and has been unused since then.
It was designed by Boston architect Edward Thomas Patrick Graham and is a blend
of Shingle and Late Gothic Revival architectural styles.

When a wealthy merchant of goods, Timothy Smith, and his wife, Mary Ellen, died in
1918, their will specified that the proceeds of their bequest be used to benefit the
highest number of residents of Old Roxbury. In 1996, the City of Boston established
the Timothy Smith Fund for Old Roxbury, using the gift. The fund established
technology and computer learning centers, now called Timothy Smith Technology
Labs. In 2003, the Timothy Smith Network was established as a nonprofit
organization to provide services to the network of technology labs. For more
information, please visit www.timothysmithnetwork.org.

HBI is a nonprofit preservation and real estate organization that
rehabilitates historic and culturally significant properties in Boston’s
neighborhoods so they are a useable part of the city’s present and future.
HBI works with local partners to identify and invest in historic buildings
and cultural resources whose reuse will catalyze neighborhood renewal. HBI
acquires and redevelops historic structures and provides technical
expertise, planning services and financing for rehabilitation projects. HBI
projects demonstrate that preserving historic properties is economically
viable and that they can be useable and functioning assets in a community.

Please visit HBI at www.historicboston.org.
For more information, please contact:
Tom Palmer, Tom Palmer Communication
617.755.7250, tom@tompalmercommunication.com