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Lease of parking area will help fund ministries at cathedral

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SOUTH END -- The Cathedral of the Holy Cross recently signed a 99-year lease that will convert its current parking lot into a source of income for the cathedral and its ministries.

According to archdiocesan spokesperson Terrence C. Donilon, the development of the parking lot space will create a 160-rental-unit housing space with retail on the ground floor, through work with developer Peter Roth of New Atlantic Development, while maintaining parking at the cathedral.

"This is a renaissance period for the cathedral, and it's a great opportunity to preserve it, to enhance it, and to enhance the programs. We're not going to become commercial real estate developers. That's not something that we're interested in becoming, but this is a first-of-its-kind for us. We've got a really good developer, who is cognizant of the fact that this is essentially Church property," Donilon said.

Income from the lease will go to the parish and the ministries organized by cathedral rector Father Kevin J. O'Leary, according to Donilon.

He added that a parking garage at the development will set aside 70 spaces for use by the cathedral.

"Parking is a premium down there, so 70 spaces is 70 spaces. It's important. We recognize that. Father O'Leary recognizes that, and that's a big issue everywhere in the city," he said.

"This development is going to produce resources for the parish, which is extremely important to support programs such as the outreach to the various ethnic communities, to the poor, to the folks who really rely on the cathedral for a whole number of ministries," Donilon said.

Ministries at the cathedral include a partnership with Catholic Charities for a food bank, a free medical clinic, a community of Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholics who celebrate the Ge'ez Rite, an apostolate to the German community, Spanish-speaking ministries and Masses, and a community that celebrates the Latin Mass.

Meanwhile, in addition to the development of the parking area, a small group of local businesspeople is raising $2 million for renovation and cleaning of the cathedral.

"This work that Father (O'Leary) is leading here is going to preserve the cathedral for generations. It is the base for the Catholic Church in the archdiocese, and it's a very important and striking facility that needs to be preserved," Donilon said.

Part of the improvements will include the installation of bells from the nearby closed Holy Trinity Church in the cathedral in the early summer.

Kevin Phelan, co-chairman of Colliers International's Boston office, Sean McGrath, of the real estate development and leasing Stonegate Group, led a team that is raising the funds for renovations and cleaning.

The Washington Street Elevated ran by the cathedral from the early 1900s until its final run on April 30, 1987, and he said, some of the dust and grime produced remains on the Cathedral to this day.

Phelan said with $1.5 million raised of the $2 million, cleaning the grit of years past can become a reality. The project will include new exterior lighting.

"We would like to get started in the spring, as soon as the weather breaks. The vision is to clean the exterior -- steam clean it or whatever process they do -- and up-light it, so it becomes the beacon for the community of the Catholic Church in Boston," he said.

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