Community Gets Update on Redevelopment Plans for Villa Victoria Arts Center

The community received the first update on the status of the stalled redevelopment of the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts during a meeting on Monday, Dec. 17, at the Blackstone Community Center.

Peter Munkenbeck, a member of the design team since April, said the board of IBA – the community organization founded in 1967 to ensure that residents of the Villa Victoria housing development in the South End maintain “long-term control over their housing and neighborhood” – decided about a year and a half ago to undertake an extensive renovation of the envelope of the building at 85 West Newton St.

When the contractor began work to restore the roofs of the sanctuary and parish house in September of 2017, however, it was soon determined that the tower could no longer support the weight of the steeple and belfry, and that some wall elements could no longer support the roof. Construction was put on hold that November as a result.

In May of 2018, the design team took what Mulkenbeck described as a “first pass” at remedying the situation and concluded that in addition to the $10.9 million already spent on the project, it would cost another $6 million to complete. The team opted instead in August to erect a temporary roof and “essentially mothball” work on the sanctuary, Mulkenbeck said.

Since that time, the design team has brought Kennedy &Violich Architecture of Roxbury on board and determined that it would cost $12.4 million to rebuild the tower, mount the steeple on top and fix the deteriorating wall elements.

Mulkenbeck said the design team must now choose from four possible solutions.

The first option, which Mulkenbeck described as “unlikely,” would be not to rehabilitate the building at all and instead completely demolish it.

A second alternative would leave the parish house intact while razing the sanctuary, only to replace it with a new building that would adjoin the existing parish house.

The third option would call for the demolition of the parish house and sanctuary while preserving some elements of both that would be incorporated into a new structure.

A fourth alternate, which Munkenbeck said wasn’t a likely solution, would “somehow find a design that preserves all the existing building elements.”

The design team hopes to narrow the choices down and present them to the community in the spring, as well as decide on a “concept,” which would be filed with the South End Landmark Commission in June, Munkenbeck said.

Vanessa Calderon, executive director of IBA, said while the building’s unexpected closure has created complications for Villa Victoria, including the relocation of its preschool and art classes to other sites, the new facility would ideally accommodate all of the organization’s offices and programming under one roof.

“We’re committed to the building and our programs, and we’re do our best to make it work,” Calderon said. “We’re thinking how we can make this space truly exceptional for the next 50 years and beyond.”

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