Where to Plant a Church in Boston: Areas of Growth

Where to Plant a Church in Boston: Areas of Growth

by Rudy Mitchell and Steve Daman

Want to know where to plant a church in Boston? You might consider Boston’s newest or soon-to-be-built residential growth sites. New neighborhoods and new residents mean new opportunities for planting new churches.

Take a look at these eight neighborhoods of current or immanent growth, based on public and private development plans. Given the general population trends, these are priority areas for outreach and new churches.

Map showing plans for potential expanded neighborhoods, from Imagine Boston Expanding Opportunity, City of Boston, Draft November 2016, p. 25

Map showing plans for potential expanded neighborhoods, from Imagine Boston Expanding Opportunity, City of Boston, Draft November 2016, p. 25

Neighborhood change is ongoing. Boston’s new neighborhood development will not happen all at once. Some areas have residential developments in process or already completed, like the Seaport District, the South End, Jamaica Plain, and to some extent Allston-Brighton. Other areas, like South Boston and Charlestown, already have many new young professionals and some new housing, but much more will be built in the next five years. Other areas, specifically Suffolk Downs and the Beacon Yards part of Allston, will most likely take more than five more years to develop.

Your geographic and demographic focus. Of course, reaching into newer neighborhoods is not for everyone. Ministry leaders should prayerfully select their geographic focus and adapt their strategies to the types of residents they are called to serve. The church in the city can be adapted in countless ways, and church planters can reach and serve a diversity of current and newer residents because the Gospel is for all people. Congregations may—by their form, style, or language—be better equipped to reach specific groups of people with whom they can make the most impact.

Church planters seeking primarily to reach specific immigrant groups like Nigerians, Brazilians, or Vietnamese, for example, need to know where these nationalities are more concentrated. Churches seeking to serve college students need to find meeting space within walking distance of campuses or in reach of public transportation while being sensitive to the needs, concerns and culture of students. Leaders seeking to reach and serve Boston’s new population growth areas will need to take the time to understand the characteristics, cultures, work, and interests of the people who will be living there.

Here’s a look at eight of the bigger residential development areas across the city:

1. Seaport District by the Waterfront. While there are many new high-rise housing and office buildings being built here, there are very few churches in the area.

2. South End. The northeastern and eastern parts of the South End from the Ink Block to the Boston Medical Center between Albany and Washington Streets will soon have hundreds of new apartments and condos which are being planned and built. Will the South End churches be ready?

3. South Boston from Andrew Square to the Broadway MBTA stations. Although still in the future, “Plan: South Boston Dorchester Avenue” calls for 6,000 to 8,000 new housing units. DJ Properties is also building Washington Square, a mixed use development near Andrew Station with 656 residential units. The nearby Widett Circle and New Market/South Bay areas are also potential major development sites proposed by the City of Boston. Currently there are already many new housing units and new residents around Broadway and in South Boston generally. The neighborhood has few Protestant churches.

Nine-building Washington Square Development with 656 residential units approved and to be completed in the next four years.

Nine-building Washington Square Development with 656 residential units approved and to be completed in the next four years.

4. Charlestown – Sullivan Square and other areas. The Sullivan Square area is one of the six main areas the City of Boston has proposed for major housing expansion. Meanwhile the 1,100 units of the Bunker Hill Housing Development will be totally redeveloped into 3,200 units of mixed housing. Charlestown has very few Protestant churches.

Bunker Hill Housing Development Plans

Bunker Hill Housing Development Plans

5. Allston Brighton – Beacon Yards. This is one of the six major areas proposed by the City for development into new expanded neighborhoods. The Boston Landing Campus of New Balance is an area with new residential units and Stop & Shop will be building 1,000 new housing units. Other major housing developments are in the works as well.

Boston Landing in Allston near New Balance (NB Development Group and HYM)

Boston Landing in Allston near New Balance (NB Development Group and HYM)

Residential development with 295 units for 2018 opening.

Residential development with 295 units for 2018 opening.

6. Roxbury – from Dudley Square area to Ruggles MBTA station. Coming up in the next several years is the recently approved $500M Tremont Crossing development with over 700 apartments. The nearby Whittier St. Housing Project received funding for a full redevelopment into an expanded mixed income development. Other significant residential developments are also in the works, and Northeastern University is expanding in the area with high-rise dorms.

Tremont Crossing, just one mile from EGC

Tremont Crossing, just one mile from EGC

Whittier Choice redevelopment with 387 units of mixed income housing in three new buildings.

Whittier Choice redevelopment with 387 units of mixed income housing in three new buildings.

Whittier Choice redevelopment near Ruggles Station.

Whittier Choice redevelopment near Ruggles Station.

7. Jamaica Plain – Forest Hills Station. This area is booming with several large new housing developments in various stages of planning and completion. Also, the nearby Washington Street corridor recently completed a new (and controversial) plan which includes potential new residential development in addition to what is already being built in the area. Although there are some thriving churches in this area, because there will be so many new residents there is room for more churches not only here, but throughout Jamaica Plain.

The Residences at Forest Hills

The Residences at Forest Hills

8. Suffolk Downs. In the future, this former racetrack will likely become a whole new community. This massive 161-acre site is one of the six major areas proposed by the city for expansion, and was recently purchased by a developer, HYM Investments. This could become one of the largest developments in the whole region.

Planting now for future harvest. As these new communities emerge across the city, the need to plant new congregations should be high on the list for Christians in Boston as we think about the witness and work of the Kingdom of God over the next few decades.

Take Action

Learn more about the City’s plans for housing new residents.

Connect with the Greater Boston Church Planting Collaborative.

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