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Old 11-13-2009, 09:44 AM   #1
Roxxma
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Complete St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition | 20 Belvidere St | Back Bay

Anyone know what this is all about? It is adjacent to St Cecilia's RC church and is currently used as a parish hall and rented out for classroom space for Berkelee and BAC...
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Old 11-14-2009, 02:44 PM   #2
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

The proposal would demolish the existing century-old, Tudor Gothic rectory.

I'll try to get a better photo when it stops raining, but for now, here is the Google Streetview:



From this weeks's Boston Courant:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cronin, Boston Courant



$10m Renovation Set for St. Cecilia's

by Jim Cronin
Courant News Writer


The Saint Cecilia church may undergo a $10 million renovation next year that church representatives said is necessary to increase capacity for a growing congregation.

Funding for the project comes from the sale last year of an 11,000-square-foot parcel of land adjacent to the church.

If the Boston Landmarks Commission approves the demolition of the church rectory at 20 Belvidere Street, construction should start in January and be finished in October.

The main church building, erected in 1888, needs major improvements to expand its capacity by adding religious education and office space, updating the ventilation system, and reconfiguring the altar and seating in the main sanctuary, said Bob Walsh, chair of the church's renovation committee.

In the rear of the sanctuary would be space for a glassed-off nave where people could gather and parents could go with children during services, "sort of like a crying room," according to Walsh.

A new glass entryway would be built on the site of the rectory, making the primary entrance to the church handicapped accessible, and behind it will be a garden and an entrance to the lower church. The stairs that now lead straight up to the church will be reconfigured to hug the front of the building. An elevator will be installed in the existing tower on the right side of the church and accessed through the new entryway.

"Frankly, I could live without one more construction projectin the neighborhood," said Karla Rideout, a Massachusetts Avenue resident and member of the Boston Redevelopment Authority task force. that is monitoring Berklee College of Music's campus expansion proposal.

"The glass entryway doesn't seem to be in keeping," with the historic look of the main church building, Rideout added.

However, Jeffrey Brown, a project architect with Donham and Sweeney Architects, the firm planning the rehab project, said the church is looking for an entry to the building that allows people to view and access the new front door to the building.

"The idea is that one can easily see this new, welcoming entry place," Brown said.

"The new piece is setting itself apart ... and not trying to just mimic the existing construction."

The rectory would be completely rebuilt because it is uninhabitable due to water and structural damage, which has forced the parish priests to live off-site for three years.

The rectory was built in 1917. but is not historically or architecturally significant, Walsh said. Its bathroom facilities and staircases are inadequate, and if it were retained and renovated instead of demolished, only half of the building could be used since the rest is so dilapidated that it is beyond repair, he added.

If the rectory were kept for use, the church would need to rent out space in the building to make up for renovation costs at prices far higher than the surrounding area, Walsh said.

The Boston Landmarks Commission will hold a public hearing regarding the demolition on Tuesday. November 24 at 5:30 pm in room 805 at City Hall. The public can attend to express their views on the proposal.
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Old 11-14-2009, 02:54 PM   #3
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

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Originally Posted by briv View Post
"Frankly, I could live without one more construction projectin the neighborhood," said Karla Rideout, a Massachusetts Avenue resident and member of the Boston Redevelopment Authority task force. that is monitoring Berklee College of Music's campus expansion proposal.
And now it all makes sense
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Old 11-14-2009, 03:15 PM   #4
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I'm with the BRA on this one. They're going to tear down a beautiful turn of the century Tudor Gothic building for a smaller glassy thing, so that they can have a "crying room"?
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Old 11-14-2009, 03:18 PM   #5
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Quote:
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If the rectory were kept for use, the church would need to rent out space in the building to make up for renovation costs at prices far higher than the surrounding area, Walsh said.
wait it would be more expensive to keep the current building than the $10 mill proposal to demolish and build a new facility there?? and why would they have to rent out the renovated refectory if they plan on using the new building for their own purposes.

man f* the idiots of the world.
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Old 11-14-2009, 03:20 PM   #6
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

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Originally Posted by czsz View Post
I'm with the BRA on this one. They're going to tear down a beautiful turn of the century Tudor Gothic building for a smaller glassy thing, so that they can have a "crying room"?
me too. that thing is beautiful.
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:12 PM   #7
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I don't understand -- how can they 'increase capacity' by replacing a tall building with a shorter one? Or is there an expansion somewhere else not shown in the picture?
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:18 PM   #8
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Looks can be deceiving. Behind the facade is a shithole. I was in it 4 or 5 years ago and it was barely fit for occupancy then. The C of O has even been revoked due to unsafe building conditions. Pretty standard for the Diocese, I hear. There were similar conditions in the Newbury Street properties.

FWIW, Cronin's article is a NIMBY call to arms. I hope I get this in the right order because I heard about it last fall, but I believe the failing HVAC systems in the main building triggered ADA compliance, which is what prompted the sale of the grassy plot behind the church after they realized/accepted the rectory was so far gone.

Ms. Rideout is right, there's a lot going on or planned for in this area, but I try to remember it's a sign of growth (even during bad economic times!) It's outside the hysterical nutters zone and has always been an incongruous addition to an understated building.

I'm not a fan of that 90's era glass erection though. Who keeps designing these awnings into buildings? They're worthless for rain protection and provide no sun protection. Blegh.

@Ron The building is deep but mostly unoccupied. This plan nets more usable space in new construction.

@czsz Karla Rideout isn't from the BRA, she's just a member of one of their advisory things for a completely different and unrelated project.
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:34 PM   #9
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by czsz View Post
... so that they can have a "crying room"?
Do I see a new name for this website?

(P.S. I agree with you! But I'd call the building B.C. gothic.)
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:36 PM   #10
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

It sounds like what it needs is a good gut renovation and systems upgrade, not a demolition.

Replacing it entirely is not a "sign of growth," it's a sign of a culture in which perverse incentives make it cheaper and easier to throw away nice old buildings for throwaway new ones.
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Old 11-14-2009, 04:47 PM   #11
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Well said!
A building like this makes the best case for a facadectomy. Undistinguished interior best replaced with a modern substitute.
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:49 PM   #12
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Dear Lord, this appears to be quite an aesthetic step backward.
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Old 11-14-2009, 10:04 PM   #13
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Is this where Berklee rented space? I had a class somewhere there about five years ago, but don't really remember much other than it was a fairly big room and faced out to the backside of the property.
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Old 11-15-2009, 11:49 AM   #14
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Value engineering makes the Baby Jesus cry.
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Old 11-19-2009, 02:43 PM   #15
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

A bit of history first. St. Cecelia's Church was once the wealthiest in the Archdiocese of Boston. In fact, Cardinal O'Connell (Archbishop from 1907-1944) made himself the titular pastor of the parish in order to receive the financial benefice, when the system placed all offertory money in the hands of the pastor. More recently the parish was known for a pastor who broadcast devotional radio programs. Then the decline set in when many former parishioners no longer could afford Back Bay and Fenway rents, the tearing down of a lot of housing for urban renewal, and the shift of that portion of Mass. Ave. from residential neighborhood to student enclave. Since it's designation as the Catholic parish serving the Fenway student body, as well as the new home for the gay community from the Jesuit Urban Center, the parish has had a renaissance with the leadership of the present pastor, John Unni.

I'm surprised at the inaccuracies in the original report. The building in question, which I've been in, had been used for meeting rooms. It had never been used as a rectory, that is, the place where the "rector" or pastor and assistant clergy of a Catholic parish live. It was indeed a pit inside thirty years ago.

The rectory, where the priests ought to be living, is actually built into the left facade tower (note the windows), a neat conceit which combines two architectural ideas into one. It is this left tower that is uninhabitable for the staff at this time and needs to be renovated.

The church wants to make its spaces handicapped accessible and bring the worship space up to the present time for the various student ministries and the former Jesuit Urban Center community. (I don't agree in principle with a "cry room" at the back of churches. I hate segregating children from the rest of the community, but apparently the perceived need for such a space is a sign of positive growth in the neighborhood.) While it seems adapative reuse is always better than tear down/build up, it is most likely cost-prohibitive for this parish and may not allow for a good use of the physical footprint.

Now I'm not a fan of the new design as shown either, but I respect the church's decision to create a more useful space for itself as it grows into the future. I hope a redesign is in the works. Facadectomies don't work when the floors are going to be shifted around behind them. Also, I could be wrong, but isn't most of the trim around the stone poured concrete and not carved stone? If so, this may be too unstable to work around.

We may rightly complain about the removal of this touch of neo-gothic, second rate that it may be, but given the street it is on, and the quality of the surrounding architecture, the change from "quaint" to "contemporary" might just blend in fine and offer a signal that the parish is not stuck in the 19th C.

Last edited by Padre Mike; 11-19-2009 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 11-20-2009, 09:50 AM   #16
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I've always liked that the rectory was built into the tower. It is one of the more unique features of a church building in the area. Was this church designed by Patrick Keeley? It seems that a number of his churches have incomplete towers (St Mary's in Charlestown and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to name two off the top of my head).
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Old 11-21-2009, 04:21 PM   #17
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I don't think St. Cecelia's is a Keeley Church. I wonder if there ever were plans for a spire inasmuch as the rectory was located within the tower. The reason for truncated towers on some of his churches was not a design issue, but rather one of either money or instability of the foundations (esp. when built on pilings on filled land). The drawings for the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, for example (a poster of which had been available at the Cathedral), showed wonderful spires, 200 and 300 feet high! Imagine if they had been built (but then again, imagine the amount of money to maintain them!). The foundations of the towers were not stable enough to complete the spires. Also sometimes spires did once exist but were blown down in storms, such as Holy Trinity German Church on Shawmut Ave, which lost it's spire in the hurricane of 1938, I believe.
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Old 11-21-2009, 06:52 PM   #18
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

Old South Church on Boylston Street lost its original tower due to settling.
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Old 11-23-2009, 09:53 AM   #19
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I'm pretty sure I've heard that the reason for the stumpy towers on Holy Cross are due to the filled land issue. I wonder if, using modern lightweight building techniques, Keely's vision can be realized sometime in the future. It just looks incomplete now. It would be pretty impressive, not to mention it might be nice to have a chime of bells up there too..
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Old 11-24-2009, 03:51 PM   #20
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Re: St. Cecilia Parish Hall Addition (20 Belvidere St.)

I agree Roxxma. I often thought a lacey design, similar to Cologne Cathedral's spires, but done in bright aluminum or stainless steel, would look wonderful and add considerably to the skyline, especially as one looks up Clarendon St. from behind Trinity Church. Alas, we're talking big buck though.
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