Closed Lynn parish to become affordable housing

LYNN — Once the site of baptisms, marriages and funerals, St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Lynn, which closed in 1998, will again become a vital part of the Lynn community thanks to the efforts of the archdiocese and city and state officials.

The Planning Office for Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Boston held a groundbreaking cere-mony Dec. 12 to begin construction of a mixed income housing development on the grounds of the now closed French-Canadian parish.

"In the past, St. Jean Baptiste Church was a bastion of hope and stability for this great West Lynn neighborhood," said Lynn mayor Edward J. "Chip" Clancy, Jr., in a statement. "Soon we will see a redevelopment at this location that will do the same for future generations."

The former church building, rectory, school and gymnasium will soon be razed and 38 units of affordable housing will be built. Of the 38 units, 24 will be rental units and 14 will be first-time homebuyer units.

A community center to benefit young adults in the area will also be included in the development. The community center, which will be operated by Catholic Charities North and the Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), will provide education, job training and first-time homebuyer counseling services.

Construction of the St. Jean Baptiste Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, the project’s temporary name, will begin in the coming months after existing structures on the property have been demolished. The planning office hopes to have the development completed by the end of 2004.

"The neighborhood revitalization made possible by this development at St. Jean Baptiste builds on a rich history and is a good example of how former parish property is being used to help those in need," said Archbishop Seán P. O'Malley, who attended the ceremony. "With deep respect for those who established and sustained this parish in the past, we look forward to offering new hope and a renewed sense of community for generations to come."

Also attending the groundbreaking was Gov. Mitt Romney, who designated state funding for the project.

"The St. Jean Baptiste development is a perfect example of the type of new housing we should create in our developed urban centers close to all the services that make possible a desirable quality of life," said Gov. Romney. "I am pleased the commonwealth was able to partner with the archdiocese and the city of Lynn to make these 38 new homes a reality."

The planning office worked closely with LHAND, local residents and St. Mary Parish in Lynn to plan the development of the property. Financing for the $9 million project was provided by a number of organizations including FleetBoston Financial, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and the Highland Street Connection.

The planning office currently has 654 units underway including the St. Jean Baptiste Revitalization Initiative. The planning office pursues the social justice mission of the archdiocese by developing affordable and mixed income residential communities where people can live with dignity in high quality housing they can afford.