BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — St. Joseph Church is coming down this week.
The demolition of the 63-year-old church building on Lafayette Street, which has been vacant since the parish was closed nine years ago by the Archdiocese of Boston, could begin as early as today, the developer said last night.
“Taking down the church building will take a few weeks,” Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, the development wing of the archdiocese, said at a meeting of the South Salem Neighborhood Association.
The demolition will culminate a contentious few years of appeals and court fights that divided the city’s historic community and threatened the housing development that the Planning Office has been working on since it acquired the site in 2005.
Last June, Historic Salem Inc., a private preservation organization, dropped an appeal and a threatened lawsuit in federal court. The agreement, which ended a bitter fight within HSI, was signed in the office of Mayor Kim Driscoll.
The church will be razed just weeks after the convent came down on the same 2-acre site where French-Canadian immigrants established a parish more than a century ago.
Construction of a $27 million, four-story apartment building will begin as soon as the site is cleared. The St. Joseph Church redevelopment, which will have 51 apartments, is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving, Alberghini said.
“We’re going to start excavation right away,” she said.
She said she hopes to have the building rented by early next year.
While this is billed as an affordable-housing project, Alberghini said it will not be low-income housing.
“It’s really workforce housing,” she said
The vast majority of the one- to three-bedroom units will have rents that range from about $900 a month to more than $1,500, according to the developer.
The apartments will be marketed to families with incomes as high as $60,000.
There also will be eight subsidized Section 8 apartments, which represents about 15 percent of the building.
The apartment building will have community and retail space on the first floor, but no definite plans have been announced.
“We don’t have a tenant identified yet,” Alberghini said.
In response to a question from a member of the neighborhood group, she said it won’t be a drugstore, which was rumored several years ago.
The fates of the St. Joseph rectory and school building have not been decided. The Planning Office is committed to try to save them and could develop them or possibly market them to other developers, Alberghini said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.
St. Joseph Parish milestones
1873: Parish founded
1884: First church built
1892: First school built
1911: Second church built
1914: Great Salem Fire destroys church
1950: Current church built
2004: Archdiocese of Boston closes parish
2013: St. Joseph Church razed