CBA to purchase St Peters property for housing

News broke last week that the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA) is in negotiations to purchase the former St Peter’s Church property, now the home of Cooney Insurance & Real Estate. I spoke with some of those involved last week about the proposal which seems like a good one. The CBA would retain the existing building on the lot, the former rectory and now home to the Cooney business and several law firms, and would then construct two large apartment buildings containing a total of close to fifty units on the downtown side of the rectory.

The intended residents of these apartment units would be families of “moderate means” which equates to the family having wages between $29,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the family. Given America’s “hour glass” economy, that income range might better be described as middle class.

While the project is only in the conceptual stages now, the CBA has a great track record for these types of developments. Anyone doubting that should take advantage of Doors Open Lowell this coming Saturday and visit the CBA’s most recent project, the former St Joseph’s High School on Merrimack Street.

The stretch of Gorham Street that passes in front of the St Peters property is indeed one of the gateways into the city. Many of the existing neighbors have done a great job maintaining their properties, but it’s as if the neighborhood never quite bounced back from the construction of the Lowell Connector and the closing of St Peter’s parish. Perhaps a project such as this might serve as a catalyst for a neighborhood renaissance.

4 Responses to CBA to purchase St Peters property for housing

  1. joe from Lowell says:

    That area really took a hit from Urban Renewal and the Connector. On the other side of Gorham Street, you see a tightly-integrated, traditional neighborhood, but between Bishop Markham Village, the School Department building, and the single-story facilities building on the South Common, there are a lot of large-scale projects that create no-man’s-lands and superblocks. I hope that this project is designed in a way that knits the neighborhood back together with smart New Urbanist principles, rather than worsening the situation with something that looks like 1972.

    I’d rather see the whole lot built on with human-scale buildings than two more street-avoiding towers and a suburban patch of lawn.

  2. Corey says:

    25 units to a building is a lot if you want any community cohesiveness. Two of then next to each other is worse. I’m with Joe – this sounds like Bishop Markham II.

    This spot is right off the Lowell Connector and with the pending closure of the courthouse across the street and the re-use questions that brings, this project should contain some sort of commercial/communal space.

    Unfortunately, my guess is that there are no ways for the CBA to make this project economical if they were to build anything but an ugly prefab housing tower on what was once the site of one of Lowell’s most beautiful churches. It’s really depressing every time a civic building dies and another private (or, often in Lowell, heavily subsidized) housing project goes up.

  3. joe from Lowell says:

    “I’m with Joe – this sounds like Bishop Markham II.”

    If properly designed, it could be a real asset to the neighborhood. Not all large multi-family buildings are created equal.

    Six stories, townhouse units (meaning, not just one entrance shared by a couple dozen units), and the preservation of the existing building are all good signs.

  4. Corey says:

    I don’t know…given the layout, history, and visibility of that space, I just hope they do a good job.

    I often walk a loop along the Riverwalk and then back along the Northern Canal, and I’ve been noticing a very nice looking and historcially sensitive building going up on Moody Street. Trying to get more info about this St Peter’s project, I found out that it’s a CBA project and is 24 units:

    So, that is potentially the size and scope we are looking at. However, can this building fit on that lot twice, with parking as well?