Archdiocese sells Brighton campus to BC

BRIGHTON — The Archdiocese of Boston announced that agreements have been reached to sell the Chancery buildings and Bishop Peterson Hall to Boston College and relocate the central administration to Braintree, according to a May 24 statement.

The three Brighton buildings on nearly 20 acres will net the archdiocese $65 million. The archdiocese said it expects the property sale to close by Aug. 1, 2007.

The plan already has the approval of the archdiocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors and the members of the corporation of St. John’s Seminary, according to chancellor James P. McDonough. The sale also needs the approval of the Holy See, he said.

“We have reached a significant milestone in announcing this agreement,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in the statement. “Proceeds from this sale will allow the archdiocese to invest resources for the benefit of our parishes, clergy, St. John's Seminary and the many important programs that serve a large number of people.”

The archdiocese has also struck a deal with The Flatley Companies to use a nine-year-old, 140,000 square foot building on Brooks Drive in Braintree. Although the archdiocese has not released the terms of the agreement, they are “very reasonable,” according to Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese.

The Braintree building will be home for all departments now located in Brighton, including the cardinal’s office, as well as other agencies and departments located in the greater Boston area. The archdiocese assured employees that no jobs have been eliminated as a result of the move. The archdiocese downsized staff last year, eliminating 50 positions.

A moving date has not yet been set, but the archdiocese expects all offices to relocate by July 2008.

Father Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, said that the move will help the archdiocese to continue to focus on communication, service and coordination.

“This is going to allow us to better serve the community,” he said. “It’s going to help us as a staff be better coordinated and communicate with each other better, and the beneficiaries of that will be the faithful of the archdiocese because it will allow us to serve them better.”

The Braintree office will bring archdiocesan services to one location. It will feature better meeting spaces, a larger chapel, more parking, a staffed cafeteria and greater classroom space. The archdiocese currently must turn away candidates to the permanent diaconate because there is not enough room for more than 30 men to study in the program, Father Erikson said.

Although the Braintree building is in excellent condition, the archdiocese will complete some renovations before the move. The building will likely get new carpeting, window treatments and paint. The archdiocese will also construct a multi-purpose auditorium and a chapel that seats 150.

The building is located just off three major roadways and is not far from public transportation. There are fitness and daycare centers, hotels, and a shopping center nearby. The property is also adjacent to the Blue Hills Reservation.

The Brighton property has been home to the archdiocese’s central administration since the late 1920’s. The archdiocese reached an agreement with Boston College in 2004 to sell 43 acres of the campus, including the cardinal’s residence and other buildings, for $99.4 million. In 2006, the archdiocese sold the Tribunal building and property to BC for $8 million.

Through this most recent deal, the remainder of the Brighton property, save St. John’s Seminary, will belong to Boston College. Bishop Peterson Hall, which is attached to St. John’s Seminary, is intended as the future home of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

It is expected that BC will remove the Chancery and Creagh Library buildings and will build new facilities, including undergraduate student housing, a parking garage, a baseball stadium and softball fields, academic offices, classrooms, a museum and an auditorium.

Although the archdiocese will maintain ownership of St. John’s Seminary, Boston College has agreed to oversee building maintenance and capital improvement as well as provide security, telephone, Internet and food services at cost. The college will also maintain St. John’s Seminary library, a separate building located next to the seminary. Seminary faculty and students will still have access to that building.

Cardinal O’Malley reiterated his long-standing commitment to St. John’s Seminary in the statement.

“The future is bright for St. John's, strengthened by the participation of dioceses from throughout our region,” he said. “The Church has been blessed with a significant increase in the number of young men who have expressed interest in priesthood and religious life. Earlier this year close to 100 men attended discernment retreats.”

Additionally, the cardinal thanked Boston College for assisting in rebuilding the local Church.

“On behalf of the archdiocese, I wish to express my gratitude to Boston College, which has been a good friend and neighbor to the archdiocese,” he said.

Boston College president William P. Leahy, S.J. called the transaction a “win-win” for the archdiocese, the seminary, BC and the neighborhood.

“A strong and healthy Archdiocese of Boston can better serve not only the Catholic community, but also wider society,” he said.