In today’s episode of the “Seminary Squeezola” (about how both the Boston Archdiocesean leadership and Boston College have been inhibiting the ability of St. Johns Seminary from being more prosperous), we discuss the expansion plans BC has for their new “Brighton Campus” and we share via pictures what the squeezola actually looks like.
For new readers, in our first exciting episode, St Johns Seminary “Squeezola”, we reported on how Boston College is encroaching on the limited space left for St. John’s Seminary. In our second episode, The 2007 Sale of Property to BC, we gave some of the history of the 2004 and 2007 sales, and how the archdiocese–and specifically Cardinal O’Malley, Chancellor McDonough, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson who serve on the seminary board–disregarded the recommendations of the Vatican’s apostolic visitation committee that no more property from SJS be sold. In our third episode, Chancellor Conflict of Interest and Money Grab we reported on the money grab for the seminary assets and conflicts of interest by Archdiocesan Chancellor Jim McDonough and other archdiocesan leaders.
For posterity sake, we invite you to briefly take a look at some of the history of the St. Johns Seminary campus. According to the SJS website, in March of 1880, Archbishop Williams acquired the 50 acre Stanwood estate, near the present day Lake Street in Brighton, for around $18,500. As you know, all of that land was sold to Boston College in 2004 and 2007. If you want to learn more about the development of the buildings on the property and architecture, the Brighton Allston Historical Society has an interesting overview.
Here is what the St. Johns Seminary map used to look like before the Archdicoese sold off all of their land:
Walk about the former seminary grounds today and it all looks basically like it did a few years ago before it was sold, except for the addition of some emergency phones, signage, and the young coeds now walking around. But this belies the plans ahead.
First off, here is what the BC “Brighton Campus” map looks like today.
The black building in the top part of the picture is St. Johns Hall. That is all that remains of the former St. Johns Seminary property for the seminary, and even that building sits on land now owned by Boston College. The building itself is legally considered a “condominium.” St. Johns Hall is attached to the former Bishop Peterson Hall (blue-colored building), and only hallway doors separate the building occupied by BC (former Peterson Hall) and the St. Johns Hall building.
The initial plans for the Brighton Campus were announced in December 2007 by BC, as part of their $800M 10-Year Master Plan (later $1B), which also included plans for the main campus. The Brighton Campus plan got pared back a fair amount after review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority by the time it was approved in early 2009.
Here are highlights from their original 2007 plan for the Brighton Campus:
- Addition of 600 beds on the Brighton Campus
- Develop the Brighton Athletics Center, which will include a 1,500-seat baseball and 500-seat softball field, as well as a multi-purpose field for intramural sports, and a 200,000 square field house for track and tennis on the Brighton Campus.
- Build a fine arts district on the Brighton Campus that will include the relocated McMullen Museum of Art, an auditorium and academic space.
- Build Jesuit housing on Foster Street in Brighton for Jesuit faculty and graduate students from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, which re-affiliates with Boston College in 2008.
- Build a 500-space parking facility to serve the Brighton Campus.
- Develop the former Cardinal’s Residence on the Brighton Campus into a Conference Center for Boston College.
- Develop St. William’s Hall on the Brighton Campus into the new School of Theology and Ministry.
- Utilize the remaining properties acquired from the Archdiocese of Boston as administrative offices.
In January of 2009, the plan was approved, with a number of modifications. Here are the highlights of the changes:
- Number of dorm rooms to be added was scaled back dramatically from the original 600 beds, down to 150 beds, and the 150 bed proposal was not approved and was to be taken under further advisement.
- Athletics facilities: Seating capacity of the baseball facility reduced from 2,000 to 1,000 seats, with the possibility of a future increase if management and impact standards are met. Seating capacity of the softball facility reduced the from 500 to 300 seats. The planned 200,000 square foot field house was reduced to a 60,000 square foot support facility.
- Fine arts center, museum and auditorium relocated from the corner of Lake Street and Commonwealth Avenue to a more central location along Commonwealth Avenue (near the former Cardinal’s Residence).
- BC agreed to establish for 25 years a “no-build” zone 50 feet wide extending from the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lake Street to the driveway entrance to St. John’s Seminary.
Here’s a 2006 rendition of what the proposed athletic fields would look like (though in the 2009 revisions, the orientation was changed)
Brighton Fields | A view to the southwest from above property adjoining Brighton Campus. A set of playing fields stretches from the near left to the near right, ending at Lake Street. The new building in the middle distance is a combination racquet center and parking garage. The campus of St. John’s Seminary is in the middle distance at center.
Work has now begun. Walk past the former Bishop Peterson Hall and you will see scaffolding outside. The building used to have classrooms, administrative offices and dorm rooms for the seminarians.
What is BC planning to use the former Peterson Hall for? According to this September 10, 2010 Boston Globe article, “Once the Lake Street renovations are complete, the college’s human resource employees from More Hall will move there.”
There are more than a few things that we do not understand. The biggest one is why BC is saying they need to use the St Johns Seminary Chapel are part of the negotition over the dorm rooms SJS would like to acquire back. There is a perfectly fine spacious chapel BC owns in the former Peterson Hall building and they are apparently planning to gut (or are already gutting) so they can use the space for some other purpose. How demanding could the office requirements for HR employees who are right now comfortably working in another building possibly be? BC also got a chapel in the former St. Clements Hall building and another smaller one in the former St. Williams Hall building. They bought 3 buildings with chapels, and need to further encroach on our seminary to use their chapel? Does anyone else think this is preposterous?
Beyond the matter of the chapel, although it is “water over the dam” at this point, just out of curiosity, was the property sold to BC in 2004 and 2007 ever even put up for sale by the archdiocese via an open request for proposal (RFP) and open bidding process? Could anyone who wanted to submit a proposal for consideration, or was BC the only bidder allowed?
Why is BC’s further encroachment on the seminary tolerated? Don’t the growing numbers of seminarians and expansion of the SJS programs speak volumes? Why isn’t Cardinal O’Malley trying to “buy back” the former Peterson Hall so the seminary’s growth has someplace to go? Whose advice is he listening to regarding the future of the seminary?
So many questions. So few answers. Stay tuned for more in our next exciting episode of Seminary Squeezola.
ps. Odds now favor the announcement of Kathleen Driscoll as the new secretary for institutional advancement next Tuesday, Election Day, so it will get the least amount of press coverage possible.