City lots may fuel expansion by church near Codman Square

Pastor Antoine Montgomery said he's been calling the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) every week for over a year. Last week, the calls may have paid off. DND is asking residents for input on the possible development of seven vacant lots situated around Montgomery's Prayer Tower Apostolic Church at 141 Norfolk St. in the Codman Square area.

The Codman Square Neighborhood Council met Sept. 5, but came to no conclusions as to how the lots should be used. The church has a master plan that could include all seven.

"We're on a million dollar drive here," said Montgomery, walking between the lots and the existing PTAC buildings, which include a hair salon, an academy, administrative offices and the 120-seat church. "If we could just get 20,000 people to donate $52 to us, we'll have our million dollars."

As of Monday, the fund-raising thermometer inside the church still stood at $1,000. "We're just getting started," said Montgomery.

The plans include razing the current church, and an adjacent storefront that the church is in negotiations to buy, to build a multiplex that would include a new 350-seat church, a gymnasium, a fitness center, a thrift store and several other facilities. This main building would also occupy DND lots at 145-149 Norfolk and 2 and 4 Woodrow Ave.

During the Council meeting, one neighbor on Balina Place expressed a desire for housing on lots at 9 Balina and 175 Norfolk, according to Montgomery. He said another church is also interested in buying a building that was once an oil heat business, and wants to use two strangely shaped lots next door at 9 and 11 Milton Ave. for parking its services. Montgomery also has his eyes on the building as an alternate plan and all four lots as potential parking. At least 43 parking spots would be required for the 350-seat church under current regulations.

"I'm not going to force the issue, but I think what we'd do the community would love, as opposed to housing," said Montgomery. "We have housing all over the place."

"We are awaiting the DND community meeting to assess community concerns and thoughts," said Cynthia Loesch, president of the Neighborhood Council.

A public meeting has not been scheduled yet, but is likely to happen in October according to DND. Once the department has a clear picture of what the neighborhood prefers, requests for proposals will be advertised for each of the seven lots.