The former Blessed Sacrament Church, empty for a decade, will become a cultural center for Boston and neighborhood hub for Hyde and Jackson squares.
That's the vision laid out by Claudio Martinez, executive director of Hyde Square Task Force, the youth development organization that has taken on the enormous task of turning the vacant church back into a vibrant community building.
Martinez, in an interview done Saturday while the church was open to public for a mayoral visit, said the building would be used for a variety of uses once renovated. One one hand, as a function hall for neighborhood gatherings like quinceañeras and first-birthday parties. On the other as a civic center with arts programming, talks, debates and movies.
Jamaica Plain's diversity is well-known, but sometimes people living in the same neighborhood don't do much more than pass one another on the street.
"We live in a community where we have created bridges," said Martinez, who is also on the Boston School Committee, "but we still have some work to do on the bonding."
One person eager to take advantage of the new space is 11th-grader Lisvet Peralta, who lives next door a previously-developed part of the Blessed Sacrament campus, the Doña Betsaida Gutiérrez Cooperative.
"I think it would be great if they redid it and opened it up for the community," Peralta said after visiting the former church, which had been opened for Mayor Marty Walsh's visit to Hyde Square on Saturday.
As part of those celebrations, staff and members of Hyde Square Task Force played Afro-Caribbean drums just outside the sanctuary. Ken Tangvik, director of organizing and engagement for the youth development agency, noted the syncretic mixing of atmospheres.
"The Catholic and African spirits were mingling," he said, "and figuring each other out."