Visitors to Nativity Academy at St. Boniface will soon see an improved parking area and entrance to the school. And, one that is environmentally friendly, too.
The project — named the Father Tim Hogan Plaza in honor of the late cofounder of the school — is a joint effort between Nativity, St. Boniface Church and the Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District.
The existing parking lot will be reconfigured and constructed with bioswales (which slow down rainwater flow into storm sewers) and permeable pavers in an effort to redirect wastewater from the sewer system.
This will allow rainwater to soak into the soil before it reaches the already taxed sewer system, said Carol Nord, executive director of the school on E. Liberty Street.
The current parking lot on Liberty Street in between Hancock and Jackson streets was originally designed to be the school playground when the parish and school were established in the 1800s. St. Boniface is the second oldest Catholic parish in the city of Louisville and the first church built for German Catholics.
The current configuration of the lot leaves many visitors confused, said Nord, and is in dire need of repair.
“The parking lot was already in desperate need of attention and we also wanted to be environmentally friendly in the construction,” Nord said.
MSD will provide Nativity with incentive credits based on the square footage of wastewater that is diverted away from the sewer system, Nord said. MSD will provide about $40,000 toward the project.
And, Nativity has already collected about two-thirds of the remaining $100,000 goal.
The green infrastructure project will pay tribute to one of Nativity’s cofounders and biggest champions — Father Hogan.
Father William Fichteman, who along with Father Hogan and Ursuline Sister of Louisville Paula Kleine-Kracht, cofounded Nativity 15 years ago, said the proposed plan for the plaza will make the school and parish a much more inviting place and that would have pleased Father Hogan, who died in 2017.
“He was a modest man and probably wouldn’t have particularly thought about something being named after him but I think he would be very proud to have the plaza re-done and made a much more inviting place,”
“St. Boniface and Nativity were two of the great loves of his life toward the end of his ministry. He was one who could always look beyond the surface and see the great potential,” said Father Fichteman.
Nord said the environmental collaboration has been a learning experience for the students at Nativity.
“This whole project has been a talking point for the
kids. We had to do some drilling to test the soil and we got the kids out there and asked them to identify the different types of rocks,” she said.
Nativity is an independent Catholic School that serves children from low-income families. There are currently 82 students enrolled in fifth- through eighth-grade. It was founded in 2003 with the support of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, Bellarmine University and the Xaverian Brothers.
Other elements to the Father Tim Hogan Plaza will be the addition of a more accessible front entrance to the school and a prayer and meditation garden.
The meditation garden will be located between the church and school and will feature benches, trees and other landscaping. There will be opportunities to purchase commemorative pavers and plaques to assist in the cost of the project.
Father Jeff Shooner, pastor of St. Boniface, noted Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si’ ” and said Catholics have a responsibility to care for creation.
“The earth is a gift from God and reflects his glory and his love to us and so we want to make decisions to show forth the care for the environment,” even if it makes it a more expensive project, said Father Shooner.
He also said the trees that will be planted will do a small part to help alleviate the “heat island effect” that is present downtown. This environmental effect creates warmer temperatures in an urban area than are found in surrounding rural areas due to human activity and pollution.
Nord said the goal is to have the project completed in late fall.
For more information or to donate to the Father Tim Hogan Plaza visit nativitylouisville.org.