HISTORY — The St. James African Orthodox Church has been an icon in the Highland Park neighborhood since its construction on the corner of Cedar Street and Hawthorne Street in 1910. Originally built for a Norwegian Evangelical congregation, the church changed hands to the African Orthodox Church in 1955 as the area became a concentrated center for African American residents. The neighborhood and church provided the perfect environment for the growing African Orthodox congregation, an off-shoot of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA ).
The church, which had been under threat of demolition, will be preserved under a plan devised by the office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Historic Boston Inc. HBI’s first step will be to stabilize the building in order to arrest the rapid deterioration that the building has suffered from over the last three years. HBI expects to undertake a full rehabilitation of the building and to restore the grandeur of the two-story sanctuary space. Plans are also being considered for new housing construction on the former church parking lot that will help to subsidize the historic building’s rehabilitation. The church building measures 8,000 square feet and a parking lot of approximately 9,000 square feet.
PURCHASE — On October 31st, HBI closed on the $1.4 million acquisition of the property from Brookline-based City Realty Group with support from The Life Initiative, a community investment fund created by Massachusetts-based life insurance companies.
REHABILITATION — The 50 Cedar Street project will involve the restoration and rehabilitation of an early 20th-century church building as well as the development of new residential units in the church’s parking lot. Built in 1910, the structure was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 2018. HBI has performed preliminary stabilization services like pest removal and the installation of a rubber roof.
CPA FUNDING — Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the City’s Community Preservation Committee and the Boston City Council have awarded $500,000 to HBI for acquisition and redevelopment of 50 Cedar Street as affordable housing and neighborhood workspace. The $500,000 in CPA funds are among the first grants secured by HBI to support the project, which currently has a funding gap of about $3 million.
DESIGN/ARCHTIECT — HBI is very pleased to announce Hacin + Associates’ selection as the lead architect for its new project, the former St. James African Orthodox Church at 50 Cedar Street in Roxbury.