Uphams Corner mulls deal on St. Kevins; talks planned

Neighbors and former parishioners of St. Kevin’s – some still sorting out their views on the potential fate of the Uphams Corner property – plan to meet soon with the partnership attempting to acquire the site of the former parish.

The Archdiocese of Boston is conveying St. Kevin’s church and school to a combination of three organizations that includes St. Mary’s Women and Children’s Center, Holy Family Parish, and a nonprofit real estate developer tied to the archdiocese, the Planning Office of Urban Affairs, that wants to use the property primarily for affordable housing.

“I think it would be very beneficial to have additional affordable housing in the area,” said Ed Grimes, head of the Uphams Corner Health Center. “Personally, because I went to school at St. Kevin and lived in the parish for many decades prior to its closing, it’s sad at one level, but its rebirth as a housing complex for current and new community folks, I think, is a good reuse of the property.”
The site was closed in 2008 as part of the archdiocese’s consolidation process.

Finding new owners for the site took a long time because of the recession, Grimes said, and archdiocesan officials apparently were not interested in having another school or religious denomination at the site.

Grimes likened the length of time spent finding a buyer for St. Kevin’s to the effort to rebuild on the Filene’s site in Boston’s downtown area. “I think the problem was the economy at the time and it still is an issue, where the recession killed loan opportunities for anybody who would have wanted to develop it,” he said. “It’s akin to what’s happening in Downtown Crossing. Money dried up and they were unable, at least at present, to complete the building.”

Zach Cohen, executive director of the nonprofit Uphams Corner Main Streets, sounded a more cautious note. “I think it’s too early for us to really comment on whether it’s going to be good or bad,” said Cohen, who is involved with St. Kevin’s Area Planning Collaborative. The group had sought to help with the redevelopment of the property and held community meetings last year.

Cohen said he appreciated the partnership’s efforts to reach out to his group, calling them “open and willing to listen to our interests.” Cohen said the collaborative has several “guiding principles” for the use of the site, with emphasis of mixed use of the space, density and effect on the street, access points, parking and maximization of green space. “It is too early to tell because in our conversations they’ve made it clear to me they really have more work to do,” Cohen said. “They recognize part of that work is listening to the community and the community’s interests.”

The purchase price for the 2.23-acre Columbia Rd. property, home to St. Kevin’s since 1945, has not been revealed.