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Boston cathedral to lease parking lot to developer

February 17, 2015

BOSTON (AP) — A parking lot owned by the Cathedral of the Holy Cross has been leased to a developer who plans to construct an apartment building on the land, a model that if successful could be used by other parishes, officials said.

In a first-of-its-kind deal for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the cathedral signed a 99-year lease with a developer who plans a 160-unit rental building with ground floor retail space. Both parties say the lease will produce steady income for the cathedral, though it is unclear how much because details are confidential.

Seventy spaces in the new building’s underground garage will be assigned to the church.

“We’re confident this will be successful, and we’ll see if we can replicate this in other parishes,” which tend to be property rich but cash poor, Deborah Dillon, director of property services for the archdiocese, tells The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/1vaOK6H ).

The archdiocese subsidizes 40 percent of the cathedral’s $900,000 annual budget, church officials said. Heating and maintaining the archdiocese’s mother church, which seats more than 2,000, is a significant burden.

“We have to come up with creative ways in which to help the parish sustain itself,” said the Rev. Kevin O’Leary, rector of the cathedral, who helped conceptualize the development deal.

The lease agreement on the development contains a clause requiring commercial use of the retail space to conform to Catholic social teaching. The developer, Peter Roth of New Atlantic Development, said the retail section will probably be a restaurant or cafe.

Specialists in Catholic ethics said they saw little risk in the development deal for the church.

“If they are able to take an asset to leverage it and create an income stream to create additional resources to help spread gospel and do the mission of Christ through a Catholic parish, I think that’s a great thing,” said Matthew Manion, president of the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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