Open Letter to Mayor Walsh on the Proposed St. Leonard Rectory Conversion

By Thomas F. Schiavoni, Saint Leonard Church parishioner

A variance request by Epsilon Partners for 6 to 8 luxury condominium units at the former Saint Leonard Rectory on North Bennet Street has met with significant neighborhood resistance, including votes in opposition by the Residents’ Association (NEWRA) and Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).

The City of Boston Board of Appeals will convene a hearing by videoconference on August 25 at 1:00 pm to review the developers’ application for zoning relief.

Schiavoni has forwarded the following letter to Mayor Walsh describing the proposed installation of balconies as confrontative, disruptive, and an existential threat to a sacred space and house of worship. welcomes commentaries on community issues via email to Opinions are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of or other writers on this site. Responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

3 Replies to “Open Letter to Mayor Walsh on the Proposed St. Leonard Rectory Conversion

  1. We are so grateful for Tom’s detailed analysis here, which is an honest look at the project The abutters to the Rectory all strongly oppose the amended Epsilon design.. We are open to condo development within the current envelope of the building, which is part of a unique historic site noted by the Massachusetts Historical Society (MACRIS). Please participate in the ZBA zoom hearing on Aug. 25 at 1 p.m. to support Tom, the parishioners and all the abutters opposing this project, and hoping for a more appropriate future of the Rectory than a 5-story walkup that will violate the peace and privacy of this community.

  2. My rudimentary knowledge of Roman Catholic liturgy (from years serving as an altar boy) and of engineering drawings (from my close relationship to an architect) was enough to make me immediately question the validity of at least two of Mr. Schiavoni’s concerns.

    “Silence in the sacristy”
    The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (which Mr. Schiavoni partially quotes) mentions that it commendable for those in the sacristy and adjoining areas to be silent. It makes no mention of sounds emanating from nearby buildings. It actually makes no mention of ambient sounds at all; only that silence should be observed – which I interpret to mean those in the sacristy and adjacent areas should not talk. This is how the priests of my youth interpreted it as we listened to cars, trucks, and motorcycles drive by on the adjacent street (not to mention baby’s crying in the vestibule which was adjacent to the sacristy in the church of my youth).

    The abbreviation for “verify in field” absolutely does not confirm that “the development team has not commissioned a structural engineering study”. Nor would the lack of a structural engineering study at this phase necessarily be negligent. The contractor, engineer, and their insurance underwriters are ultimately the ones who will decide that. It’s also worth noting that “VIF” routinely appears in final construction drawings. I can assure Mr. Schiavoni that if there is indeed a structural condition which precludes the safe construction of this addition, it will be revealed and the project will be modified or cancelled. Luckily he doesn’t need to take my word for it. That’s why we have a licensing system for engineers.

    I don’t doubt that Mr. Schiavoni and others have valid concerns about this project. But instead of honestly discussing his concerns, he generated a list of spurious arguments against the project in the hopes that the long list alone would be enough to convince those on the periphery that his cause is just. He doesn’t expect people to read the arguments critically.

  3. Seems like a reasoned list to me. We need more luxury condos to keep the neighborhood exclusive and the cost of living high. It will bring more dilettante neighbors who will use the place to impress their friends and complain about church bells waking them up before the crack of noon.

    I look forward to their response. Or even the lack thereof.

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