Catholic Charities intends to purchase new headquarters rather than build

Catholic Charities of Louisville has set aside plans to build a new headquarters and announced to stakeholders last week that it intends to purchase a building instead.

The agency, which serves its clients in several different aging buildings, currently has a contract on a commercial building on East Broadway.

“This is going to be great for our clients,” said Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities. “Broadway is a major bus line, so it’s going to be easy to get to. Whether you’re coming here for services or to volunteer, it’s going to be easy to get to. There is parking on site. And the security on this building is fantastic.”

She’s also pleased that the location is close to a variety of social service agencies and a Catholic parish.

DeJaco Crutcher expects to have a closing date by early October, after a period of due diligence. The building is currently occupied and appears to need only minor renovations to accommodate Catholic Charities’ programs, she said. If all goes as expected, she said, the agency may be able to move in sooner than it would with new construction.

Plans to build a new Catholic Charities Center adjacent to its current location on the campus of Holy Name Church, 2920 S. Third St., have been in the works since 2019, but a protracted legal battle stalled the process until last winter. The dispute centered on an effort to preserve Holy Name’s former school building, which was uninhabitable.

That effort failed and made way for the building project to proceed; both the school and former gym were razed in February to make way for the new center.

In the interim though, supply chain issues related to the pandemic have driven up the cost of the project to more than double the original estimate of $7.5 million. The estimate from Wehr Construction sets the price tag at $18 million.

“When the numbers started coming back on the new construction (this summer), it was unreasonable” to proceed, said DeJaco Crutcher. “Everyone had the same reaction: Catholic Charities has no business spending this much on a new building.”

The agency had decided to build at its current location because leaders determined a new, more efficient facility would save money in the long run and wanted to invest in the area it served for about 50 years, DeJaco Crutcher said in 2019. The central location, near I-264, and its proximity to a parish were important, too, she said.

The new plan leaves uncertainties at Holy Name, whose parishioners generally supported the investment in the campus and the area.

“I’m hopeful we can maintain a small footprint here,” said DeJaco Crutcher, whose current office is on the Holy Name campus in the former convent.

“We opened the food pantry here and there’s been a tremendous response,” she said. “We’ll have to see what the parish wants.”

She noted that at minimum, the location of the razed buildings can be paved for parking. The lot would provide a source of revenue for the parish, which is located within blocks of Churchill Downs and Cardinal Stadium.

In a letter to parishioners, Holy Name’s pastor, Father William Bowling, said he trusts that the change in plans will turn out to be a blessing for the parish.

“While we are disappointed to lose our opportunity with Catholic Charities for the shared use of a new headquarters building, there are also opportunities for us in this change of plans,” he wrote to parishioners.

“In collaboration with the Archdiocese, Holy Name Parish will take the lead in shaping the future of ministry on our parish property,” he wrote. “Just as a solution to the dilemma facing Catholic Charities emerged as a blessing, we also will trust that solutions will emerge for Holy Name Parish, with an even greater blessing for us and for the neighborhood we serve.”

Those who donated to Catholic Charities’ Building A Brighter Future Campaign for the new headquarters were informed of the new plan by mail last week.

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