Last night the Boston Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to receive the petition neighbors filed to preserve the St. James African Orthodox Church building at 50 Cedar Street from demolition. This means that the BLC will perform an official study to determine whether the building deserves to be landmarked.
While getting the petition accepted for further study is a victory for the neighborhood, the battle is not over. The 90-Day demolition delay on the AOC church expires in early July, and if the Landmarks Commission does not complete its study before then, the church could still be lost to demolition. Moreover, if the BLC does not determine that the church should be landmarked, it will again be in jeopardy. The battle to save the church building is far from over.
For us in Highland Park, landmarking has value in saving our most important structures, but the majority of buildings in the neighborhood cannot be saved by the landmarking process.
Landmarking is a process that the city uses to designate buildings of an out-of-the-ordinary importance, and the standard used by the city is that to be landmarked a building must rise above local importance to state or national importance. For us in Highland Park, landmarking has value in saving our most important structures, but the majority of buildings in the neighborhood cannot be saved by the landmarking process. Therefore we need another way to preserve the values of diversity, affordability, and quality of life in our community.
The initiative to create an ACD for the neighborhood gives us the tool we need to influence how development happens in our neighborhood. The benefit of the ACD is that it will apply to all kinds of structures, not just ones that are important on the state or national level. It will allow us some degree of say over what happens in cases of demolition, major alteration, or major change of use. At the same time, the ACD leaves individual homeowners who are already here free to do renovations on their houses as they please. It controls the worst cases of over-development without getting in the way of individual homeowner decisions. An ACD is not a historic district. It is a new and better tool that we can use to influence the shape of our own neighborhood. Stay tuned as we continue to organize to create it!