Catholic Charities ready to build, says CEO

Catholic Charities’ current headquarters, formerly Holy Name School’s convent, is pictured at left above. The former school is in the center and the gym is in the far right. All three buildings would be razed to build Catholic Charities’ new headquarters. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Catholic Charities of Louisville has raised 70 percent of the funding it needs to build its new headquarters — a project originally expected to cost about $7.5 million.

But repeated challenges to its plans, which include razing three buildings on the campus of Holy Name Church, have halted progress and will add to the project’s cost, said Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities.

“The delay in construction means it will be more expensive,” she said, noting that the cost of steel and other construction materials increase over time. The charity’s architects estimate an increase of more than $320,000 after a 12-month delay, she said. “We will have to continue to fundraise for costs engendered by the delay. And we will have to pay our lawyers.”

In the Spring of 2019, Catholic Charities announced plans to construct a more efficient headquarters at the corner of Fourth and Heywood streets on the campus of Holy Name Church near Churchill Downs. Plans for the 31,000-square-foot building project call for the demolition of Holy Name’s old convent, school and gym, which the parish can’t use or afford to restore, according to parish leaders.

The project, DeJaco Crutcher said, would save Catholic Charities money in the long run and enable its staff — currently working in multiple buildings in different parts of town — to better serve people in need.

Soon after the plans were announced, a petition began to circulate and in September 2019, the Louisville Landmarks Commission voted to designate four buildings on the campus of Holy Name as landmarks, including the old convent and school.

In December, however, the Louisville Metro Council overturned the Louisville Landmarks Commission designation in a 19-4 vote. Councilmember Kevin Triplett called the Landmarks Commission decision “erroneous” and said it didn’t consider the “economic hardship” of the owner.

The old school is in serious disrepair and considered unsafe to enter. The former convent, where Catholic Charities houses many of its offices currently, is also in disrepair, though still usable for now. It had at least 10 holes in its Spanish tile roof last year.

After the Metro Council’s decision, the petitioners filed suit in Jefferson Circuit Court. That case was dismissed in April and the petitioners have since filed an appeal.

“Our nonprofit has fundraised millions of dollars from people who want to see this building go forward and the petitioners haven’t put up one dime,” said DeJaco Crutcher. “They were heard at the Landmark Commission, they were heard by the Metro Council and they were heard at the circuit court level.

“This is part of an active parish,” she noted. “The parish needs to be able to use its whole parcel.”

DeJaco Crutcher said that when the city gives the green light to begin demolition, Catholic Charities will be financially prepared.

“We certainly have enough (funding) to begin the work when we have the opportunity to do that,” she said. “We are optimistic about finishing the funding when things return to normal.

“Right now, given the coronavirus, all of the foundations are thinking about how to do coronavirus response, so they’re not giving out capital money. They’ve said, ‘Check back with us,’ ” she added.

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