Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No Easy Way Out

Photo by David Gregor via Squandered Heritage

FEMA has designated St. Francis Cabrina Catholic Church as a historic landmark.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has concluded that St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Paris Avenue in Gentilly is historically significant, which could bring an effort to move the 147-year-old Holy Cross School there to a screeching halt.

In a Friday meeting, FEMA officials notified representatives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the school's board of directors of their decision, which they said would block use of FEMA grant dollars to pay a significant chunk of the $23 million cost of building a new school on the 17-acre Cabrini campus.

The FEMA decision was immediately attacked by Holy Cross officials and New Orleans City Council members, including Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, whose district includes the church and who was a parishioner of Cabrini.

But Holy Cross' objection the the church appears to be mostly aesthetic.

Chauvin said keeping the 1960s-era building on the campus would clash with plans to build a new Holy Cross that will reflect the 1800s architecture of the original school.

"That's not what Holy Cross is, not what our history is," he said.

However, Holy Cross has practical concerns as well.

And the church building has been described as a "money pit" by the archdiocese, Chauvin said, the result of long-deferred maintenance, inadequate heating and air-conditioning systems and a roof that has leaked since the church opened.

"How can we go to parents and say your tuition has to be this high because we had to add a component to pay for maintenance on this facility?" he said.

Unfortunately these types of problems are all too common in many of these modern buildings. But these may just be excuses by the owner as a third option has been proposed and rejected by Holy Cross.
(Stephen) Verderber said he has been unsuccessful in attempts to meet with Holy Cross officials to show them a site layout that would allow the church building to be used as part of the new school. He said the design would have little impact on the space school officials say is needed for football and baseball practice fields and for parking.
Maybe a fourth option is possible. Perhaps Holy Cross could apply to FEMA for a grant to make permanent repairs to the church in lieu of demolition. FEMA will probably reject this sort of compromise in that it might make all parties satisfied.


Karen said...

I fear that we are going to face many of these conflicts in the rebuilding.

Why does Holy Cross want to replicate the Campus they are leaving? Trying to picute it up there is the Wide Expanse of Gentilly, as opposed to the snug up against the River location.

You would think that Sacred Spaces would be given an opportunity to serve beyond the original intention.

Cabrini Church captures space and volume, not an easy thing to do

mominem said...

The Holy Cross Plans are online somewhere, I saw them. If there is a plan of Cabrini available, perhaps a site plan leaving the church cold be developed.

As for the maintenance issues, cite, I don't know how real they are but I imaging modern material can solve most of them.

Schroeder said...

Holy Cross wants to rebuild what it's leaving behind because they want a football stadium -- which couldn't be accomodated in the Lower Ninth Ward. The archdiocese is picking the same fight about a football stadium with residents around Rummel.