St. William's church block under agreement

The fire is out but the smoke has yet to clear from neighborhood disagreements over the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development's (Viet-AID) imminent sale of St. William's Church on Dorchester Avenue.

Thursday morning last week, Viet-AID leaders and members of the Church of Seventh-Day Adventists signed a purchase and sale agreement for St. William's. It is the last step before the actual $2.5 million transaction will take place, and it is legally binding for both parties.

The sale, which will likely take place before July, will close a difficult chapter for both the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association (CSHCA) and non-profit developers Viet-AID. The two parties struggled to come to agreement on the density of a proposed mixed-use retail and residential development on the site, but neighborhood desires for low density and a sinking condo market doomed negotiations.

"There's been a lot of miscommunications and emotions, but the communication lines are still open," said Viet-AID board co-president Nina Nguyen. "We're still looking to build a good relationship in the future between the two organizations."

The Viet-AID board and the civic association tried to meet over the past few weeks, but schedules could not be coordinated. At least some of the CSHCA is vowing to remember what they term Viet-AID's mishandling of the deal.

"We had expected more out of Viet-AID," said Anne Riley, head of the civic's St. William's committee. "As far as many of us our concerned, we're not going to support anything out of them in the future. They've pretty much severed their relationship with us."

Dierdre Habershaw, president of CSHCA, is less adamant.

"No one has said that directly to me," she said of Riley's comment. "But I think that some people have been left with a bad taste in their mouth."

Riley plans to organize a meeting between her committee and member of the church moving in, including its pastor, Samuel Bulgin, to see what the church has planned for the building and when they plan to move in.