In a great move forward for the preservation campaign for the St. James African Orthodox Church, the Landmarks Commission invoked a 90-day emergency protection for the building starting today. This comes just as the owners of the building had begun making preparatory moves for demolition by disconnecting the sewer line on Monday, two days ago.
This is a significant step for protecting the church.
In order to have the 90-day emergency protection, the BLC used a protection allowed under the BLC Enabling Legislation (Chapter 772, M.G.L. 1975, as amended):
"The commission may at any time after notice of a public hearing to consider designation of a landmark under this section, record as above provided, a notice that a designation is under consideration relating to the property, in which case for the period of ninety days after such recording or until the proposed designation is rejected, if such action occurs sooner such property shall be treated as and entitled to all the protection of a landmark hereunder."
It is perhaps an extension of the Landmarks Commission's usual powers to invoke this protection and may represent a precedent for using similar protections in the future.
Nonetheless, this protection comes at the 11th hour and was by no means assured. With the ACD in place, Highland Park will not be at the mercy of the situation as we are today with the St. James African Orthodox Church still partially in peril. An ACD would mean that all processes such as this would be channeled through a committee made up of members of the neighborhood and representatives from the city. The committee would deliberate each case and come up with a decision that reflects our values.
Stay tuned for a future meeting, where we will discuss how to choose who will be on the committee. It could be by election, nomination, or other mechanisms. We will determine as a group how that will happen at a future ACD discussion at one of the HPNC monthly meetings.