Written by Betsy Walsh Frissora
The future plans for the Gate of Heaven School building, located on 609 East 4th Street, have remained a controversial topic among South Boston residents over the last few years, but especially over the last couple of months. There are two potential options for the future usage of the building. The first option is to turn the old school building into yet another luxury condominium complex, which has lead to unanimous opposition. The most recent option is to allow the building to serve as its original purpose, and potentially be the home of a new charter school.
Owned by the Gate of Heaven Parish, the building has been vacant since 2009 when the Gate of Heaven School merged with the St. Brigid School to form the South Boston Catholic Academy. In 2010, the Gate of Heaven Parish announced their plan to sell the building, and use the proceeds to pay for various initiatives such as renovations to the Church, creating a maintenance fund for the church, and a scholarship fund for students at South Boston Catholic Academy. Since the announcement of the sale, various developers have proposed to turn the building into a luxury condominium development. (Shocking, I know.) However, the residents of South Boston have made it very clear that they do not want this historical building to be turned into yet another condominium development in South Boston. (Again, shocking.)
Oranmore Enterprises currently has an agreement with the Archdiocese of Boston to purchase the property and turn the vacant 48,900 sq.ft. four-story building into a 31 unit luxury condominium complex with 40 exterior parking spots. The building development also boasts a new elevator, 8 individual roof decks and one common roof deck, as well as new landscaping for the lot. Of the 31 units inside, three would be 730 sq.ft. one bedroom apartments, 21 would be two-bedroom units (roughly 900 – 1460 sq.ft.) and 7 would be three-bedroom units (1600 – 1900 sq.ft.) 4 would qualify as “affordable housing” units.
South Boston residents have been overwhelmingly opposed to the Ornamore Enterprises plan from the beginning. On April 2nd, the BRA held a meeting reviewing the plans for the building. Hundreds of South Boston residents along with elected officials including State Representative Nick Collins, Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty and Clerk of Court Michael Donovan were in attendance at the meeting, and showed unanimous opposition to the condo complex. Leaders spoke out asking the archdiocese to cut off the condominium development proposal and accept one of the charter school proposals. The mere mention of a potential charter school made the crowd cheer. At the close of the meeting it was revealed that various charter schools are interested in leasing the building, and that a group of parishioners from the Gate of Heaven Parish mentioned that they were working hard to submit a new proposal to the archdiocese for a charter school.
Mayor Marty Walsh spoke to the controversial topic just last week, and while acknowledging that the development plan has received almost complete opposition, he said that his plan was “to talk to the Gate of Heaven pastor (Father Casey) today and see if a cooling off period might be the way to go.” Not exactly sure what this means, but hopefully the “cooling off” period will be long enough to allow the parishioners to submit their proposal for a charter school.
On Wednesday, the
Boston Business Journal reported the controversial proposal has been removed the the BRA’s agenda for Thursday night’s meeting.