December 30, 2022 St. James African Orthodox Church under agreement to Roxbury non-profits
Historic Boston purchased St. James African Orthodox Church in 2018 to prevent the building’s demolition by developer City Realty Group. Its future is now clear: the historic structure is under agreement to the long-time Highland Park community developer Roxbury Action Program (RAP) and Urban Achievers SAFE Schools for restoration and re-use as non-profit offices, an alternative high school and a gathering space for the Highland Park neighborhood.
Built in 1910 as the Norwegian Free Evangelical Church for immigrants from Norway, the burgeoning congregation of St. James African Orthodox Church purchased it in 1955. The few remaining members sold the building in 2015, setting in motion a battle for the church’s preservation that was only resolved when Historic Boston negotiated purchase of the historic church building from the developer that sought to demolish it.
Sporting a new roof installed this summer by HBI with help from the George B. Henderson Foundation, St. James is now weather tight and ready for a new generation of owners.
RAP and UA SAFE Schools are just beginning their physical planning for the space. SAFE High School (Student Athlete Focused Education) is for students from underserved communities interested in sport competition and pursuing professional careers in the sport industry. RAP plans for its own offices in the church and will make space available to other area non profit organizations.
“RAP has such a long history of projects like St. James,” said its president Malcolm Wynn. “We are excited to be bringing this building back into the life of our community.”
Historic Boston will continue to provide preservation advice to the new owners. The sale is expected to be completed in January.