Planning Begins! Highland Park Community Gathers to Discuss 50 Cedar Street Project

Planning Begins! Highland Park Community Gathers to Discuss 50 Cedar Street Project

On April 4th HBI met with neighbors and residents of the Highland Park neighborhood to discuss planning for the rehabilitation and re-development of the former  St. James African Orthodox Church. A group of about 30 people gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry’s Putnam Chapel at First Church Roxbury. This meeting was the first meeting since the celebration in July and is one of several planned to discuss preservation and re-use of the building.

Since HBI officially became the owner of the building in October, it has made several investments in the former church to prevent further deterioration.  including  a new rubber roof, pest removal, and garbage/waste removal. Beyond remedying the deferred maintenance of the last 5 years, HBI has been excitedly planning for the building’s re-use in a way that preserves its important historic features and uses it for the contemporary needs of the neighborhood. After a competitive RFP process, HBI selected Hacin + Associates to plan the redevelopment and new construction. David Hacin and Scott Thomson of Hacin + Associates joined HBI staff to present preliminary massing schemes, plans for site development, and the economic parameters for re-developing the church building and new construction.

The meeting began with an overview from HBI’s executive Director, Kathy Kottaridis, on the history of HBI’s projects in Highland Park and Roxbury projects including, the Alvah Kittredge House, the Cedar Street Marble Front Row Houses, the Eustis Street Fire House, and the Spooner Lambert House. The lessons learned from these projects lend themselves to tackling what is HBI’s largest project to date.

David Hacin, President of Hacin + Associates, reviewed the firm’s recent historic preservation projects including District Hall, the Newport Firehouse, and the Hooper Mansion, among many others. Scott Thomson, Senior Associate at Hacin + Associates, presented an overview of the current site allowances including the zoning restrictions and likely variances needed to develop new housing on the rear of the parcel.

Shaurya Batra, Director of Real Estate at  HBI, framed a discussion of  the costs for rehabilitating the historic structure  and the financial feasibility of constructing  9-20 condominium units on the former church’s parking lot, reporting that the most likely option in respect to the lot size would hover around 12-14 units. Depending on the number of units, Mr. Batra estimates that the development could support a  40% affordability at 80% AMI. Construction and sale of these units are projected to help cross-subsidize the much more expensive preservation activities of the historic church.

The meeting ended with Q&A session which included questions and comments.  Neighbors and residents presented various perspectives on  density for the new construction, maintenance of the puddingstone wall on Hawthorne Street, parking ratios and density, sanctuary use for educational and community space, curb appeal in design, and more.

At this time, HBI and Hacin and Associates have not rendered any plans for the site with the exception of very conceptual ideas elicited from Hacin during the period in which HBI was selecting an architect.    HBI expects to conduct the next neighborhood meeting once Hacin + Associates develops a set of massing studies reflecting different approaches to historic preservation and new construction.  Anyone is welcome to send comments and suggestions to HBI at

A special thank you to Haley House and Wendy & Jon Ellertson for supplying delicious snacks and beverages!

Stay tuned for future community meetings and building stabilization updates, which will be posted on the project page.