July 22, 2010
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor
The Christian Science Board of Directors at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, has revealed a draft of a revitalization plan for the Christian Science Plaza in Boston, home to the church’s global headquarters. The proposal includes plans for the development of 950,000 square feet of residential and commercial facilities.
Surrounded by Boston’s Back Bay, Prudential, South End and Fenway neighborhoods, the Plaza encompasses 14.5 acres and offers 10 acres of open space that is accessible to the public. Among the property’s seven existing buildings are two centerpiece structures, the iconic Original Mother Church, built in 1894 and the Extension church, which was developed in 1906. As per the proposal, all existing buildings will remain intact.
The goal of the revitalization endeavor is threefold. One facet of involves the enhancement of the site’s open space by reopening the historical pathway leading to the Original Mother Church with the creation of a pedestrian crossing through–not over–the reflecting pool. Another goal of the plan is to increase the property’s environmental sustainability through a variety of means, including the planting of additional trees to and grass to reduce the urban heat effect.
Real estate development, however, is the key part of the revitalization plan. The church will make better use of the property’s underutilized space with the construction of new buildings totaling as much approximately 950,000 square feet. A site near the intersection of Belvidere and Dalton streets and another site off Huntington Avenue have been identified for development.
Two buildings are expected to sprout from the Belvidere/Dalton Site, creating residential units, a hotel, ground-level retail space and, if the market demands, office space. Currently, Boston has no shortage of office space. According to a report by real estate services firm Grubb & Ellis Co., the average office vacancy rate in the Boston area reached 14.4 percent in the second quarter. At the Huntington Site, the Church will erect a single, 150,000-square-foot residential building that will include affordable housing, which, unlike office space, is always in demand.
The organization has outlined the many public benefits of the new development projects, including additional affordable housing, greater street-level activity with the addition of new retail offerings, increased tax revenue and the creation of temporary construction jobs and permanent positions.
“The Church is proud to be part of Boston’s progressive vision and noble history,” Mary Trammell, Chair of the Board of Directors, noted in a prepared statement, “and to continue a tradition of contributing to this City’s beauty, inspiration, and progress.”