After more than a year of escalating acrimony and neighborhood division, preparation for the demolition of the former St. Andrew's Catholic Church continued Monday. The Twin Cities German Immersion School, a charter school that has owned the building since 2013, plans to replace it with an 18,000-square-foot addition.
Workers are salvaging "things of value, including marble molding, doors, fixtures, hardware, and materials from the pipe organ," said Julie Alkatout, the chairwoman of the school's board of directors who added that demolition equipment needs to arrive.
Tall chain-link fencing now surrounds the church site as several workers were seen going in and out of the dark brick building just before noon Monday. There was no heavy equipment at the site yet.
The public school's board voted in July 2018 to raze the building and replace it with a structure that officials say better meets the needs of their nearly 600 students. Since that vote, preservationists and neighbors opposed to the demolition have fought to prevent the loss of the 1927 building.
Designed by Charles Hausler, St. Paul's first city architect, the church closed in 2011 and was desanctified, its stained glass windows removed. A stone cross once mounted atop the church now rests in the yard of the Rev. John Forliti, who once served at the church.
Preservationists have been fighting to win historic designation for the building in hopes that it could be preserved. But many admitted defeat two weeks ago after losing an appeal of a court ruling requiring them to provide a $1.9 million bond to the school.
Despite the setback, demolition opponents protested outside the governor's residence in St. Paul over the weekend in hopes of winning a reprieve. A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night about a half-block away from the school.
School officials say a $5.1 million addition, to be built on the same footprint as the former church, will better meet the needs of their 580 students. For several years, the school had used the repurposed church as a gymnasium, cafeteria and performance space.
But school officials concluded it was better to replace it and eventually be able to accommodate about 620 students expected in kindergarten through eighth grade.
In June, the St. Paul City Council denied a historic designation for the church building, siding with school officials who opposed it.