Trust Will Not Pursue Holy Trinity Building For Affordable Housing

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Housing and homelessness , Historic preservation

The affordable housing trust will not pursue relocating the former Holy Trinity Church rectory/thrift shop building to establish affordable housing. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Due to the high cost of moving and rehabilitating a Victorian house that once served as the rectory and later the thrift shop at Holy Trinity Church, the affordable housing trust has decided not to pursue the building as affordable housing.

The Roman Catholic Diocese has plans to remove the building, constructed in 1914 on the west side of the church on Route 28 in West Harwich. The structure has been vacant for five years. Neighbors have spoken out against the plans and the historic district and historical commission has invoked a demolition delay bylaw preventing the structure from being torn down for a year. The delay expires at the end of December.

The diocese wants to remove the building and replace it with green space. During the hearings on the demolition delay, a spokesperson for the dioceses said it would sell the building for $1 to anyone who wanted to relocate it. The newly formed affordable housing trust was also suggested as a vehicle for relocating the house for affordable housing.

In a letter to the trust, diocese spokesperson and West Harwich resident Joseph Nolan said the diocese would contribute $20,000, the cost of demolishing the structure, if the trust was interested in relocating the building.

Trust member Larry Brophy was charged with examining the building and developing costs associated with its relocation and locating a suitable piece of town-owned land where it could be moved.

Brophy told the trust last Thursday that he met with Nolan and the caretaker and toured the structure. He said the building comprises three separate sections. The main section is almost 40 feet high and would have to be cut in half to be moved, he said.

He estimated moving costs at $100,000 and said it would cost another $25,000 to $30,000 to put the building on a foundation and provide power and water.

"The move was further complicated by the fact that it had been built over a number of years and the additions did not lend themselves to being cut horizontally as it was not built all together," Brophy

stated in an email. "The mover indicated if the house was to be moved to a location close to its current place it would be considerably easier. Distance would create a variety of problems and increase the cost significantly."

Brophy said the building has a 1950s design with four different styles to it. The stairs are narrow and go almost straight up; he called them “Amsterdam leg breakers.”

He estimated it would cost $50,000 to $75,000 to put the building in a livable, reasonable condition that will meet code. He presented an overall estimate of $175,000 to $200,000 to create a three-bedroom house.

There are also not a whole lot of things that make the building historically significant, Brophy added.

“We’re not getting real value for our money,” Brophy said. “I don’t think we’d be getting value for our quarter of a million dollars.” For the same cost, he said the trust could pick a site with three or four lots on it, put out a request for proposals and put four housing units working with a group like Habitat for Humanity.

Affordable Housing Trust Chairman Donald Howell said the primary objective was housing, and while historical preservation is a good secondary benefit, it does not mesh with the trust’s objectives.

Trust member Judith Underwood offered a motion to take the use of the diocese’s building off the trust’s table for use for affordable housing. The motion was approved by a 3-0 vote.