Developer seeks CPA funds to repair exterior of St. John Cantius Church in Northampton

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Posted: 1/5/2022 20:49:44 PM

Modified: 1/5/2022 20:49:07

NORTHAMPTON – The owner of vacant St. John Cantius Church wants to apply for Community Preservation Act funds to preserve and restore the structure he has been seeking permission to demolish for about a year.

O’Connell Development Group filed a form, made available by the city on Tuesday, requesting an eligibility determination for an unspecified amount of taxpayer money “for the repair and rehabilitation of the exterior and overall structure of the building damaged… to support the redevelopment. from the old Saint-Jean-Cantius church into a multi-family property for rent.

The new plan is a notable change from the Holyoke promoter’s previous insistence on demolishing the structure – built on Hawley Street by Polish immigrants in 1904 and vacant since 2010 – to make room for five townhouses. O’Connell is building townhouses on the nearby site of the old parsonage and parish hall of the church.

Matthew Welter, O’Connell’s vice president of development, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Wayne Feiden, the city’s director of planning and sustainability, said starting the CPA process doesn’t stop O’Connell from continuing with the demolition.

“They are totally, in good faith, looking at all the options and trying to save the building if they can,” Feiden said. Improvements that are used for private financial purposes are not eligible for PCA funding, but “sealing the envelope” of a damaged historic building may be eligible, he said.

When Deborah Henson, who has spent months organizing against any plan to demolish the old church, heard of O’Connell’s plan on Tuesday, she said it “sounds like great news.”

“We would be happy to get together (with O’Connell) and share ideas,” Henson said. “If it was affordable housing, that would be great because there is a need for it here. “

Henson, president of the Friends of St. John Cantius group, said members “have different favorite ideas… but we would all feel successful” if the church remained standing.

The city’s Central Business Architecture Committee is tasked with reviewing O’Connell’s request to demolish the building, first submitted in January 2021. The committee rejected the request in April, but asked for more detailed drawings, which kept the problem alive.

The committee met on Tuesday evening and approved O’Connell’s latest request for a 60-day extension. The demolition permit is now due for review on March 1 at 6:30 p.m., even as O’Connell continues to fund the CPA.

If the developer is approved to apply for funding, the application will be due this month. The community preservation committee will review all requests and make recommendations to city council, which will vote on the distribution of the CPA money in the spring.

Brian Steele can be reached at [email protected]

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