A banker with strong ties to the Catholic Church is the new owner of the headquarters of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a bankruptcy court judge ruled Thursday.

The $3.2 million bid was submitted by a limited liability firm managed by Donald Regan, chairman of Premier Bank. Regan is a longtime benefactor of Catholic causes in the Twin Cities, including the Catholic Community Foundation.

Regan said he does not have immediate plans for the Summit Avenue property across from the Cathedral of St. Paul. But the purchase means that the proposed senior housing project being considered by another key bidder will not be part of the landscape.

The bid’s approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kressel was bittersweet for Twin Cities Catholics, who for decades have viewed the “Cathedral Hill” as a center of their church. But it also is a major hurdle cleared by the archdiocese, which has had the property for sale since August.

“We believe that the purchase price is fair and reasonable,” said archdiocese attorney Richard Anderson. “The sale will generate funds that will be available for use in the bankruptcy process.”

The chancery headquarters, which includes the archbishop’s residence, is among several properties on the market since last year, when the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following a flood of child abuse claims.

Katie Regan Nath, vice president for legal counsel at Premier Bank, said Regan’s firm will be exploring options for the property.

“Don indicated that he is more sad and sentimental than smart when it comes to this investment,” Nath said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “He was fearful someone less friendly to the archdiocese would bid on and acquire the site. He therefore bought it.”

The bid by Regan’s firm, 1777 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW., was one of two last-minute offers for the property. A $2.75 million bid by United Properties had long been the highest. But before the March 18 bid deadline, the Regan firm and Friends of Cathedral Hill filed objections to the sale with the court, stating they intended to submit a higher bid.

At an auction Monday, the $3.27 million bid by Regan’s firm was the top offer.

Regan is the founder and president of Premier Bank, which has 19 branch banks in Minnesota. A Catholic whose children attended Hill-Murray School years ago, he’s been recognized for his generosity to Catholic institutions.

Last year, for example, Regan received a Presidential Award for Outstanding Merit from St. Mary’s University “for his remarkable life as a committed Catholic, banker, business owner, philanthropist and family man.”

The sale means the archdiocese can work in earnest to consolidate its offices, which had been scattered in three buildings.

The archdiocese plans to rent space for its offices in the former 3M headquarters on St. Paul’s East Side. Judge Kressel approved that request as well Thursday.

Bittersweet day

The archbishop’s residence and chancery have been a stone’s throw from the St. Paul Cathedral since the cathedral was built in 1915. They were first in a building behind the cathedral and later moved across the street.

The sale of the property, and the break from history, was bittersweet for some leaders of the archdiocese, which has an estimated 825,000 members in 12 counties.

“It is a sad, but necessary part of moving forward,” said the Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, vicar general.

“I will miss most the history of our presence on Cathedral Hill,” he said. “I have over 35 years of memories from that first day when I walked up the steps to 226 Summit Avenue to inquire about how to become a priest, to this morning when I walked up those same steps.”

The Rev. John Ubel, rector of the cathedral, said he also is saddened by the break with history. But the Cathedral Hill will always be a central part of the church.

“When all is said and done, the mission of the church is more about the people than the building,” said Ubel. “This is certainly an end of an era. But it’s also a new beginning.”

Proceeds from the sale of the chancery will go into a separate account that cannot be accessed by the archdiocese without a court order. More than 400 people have filed clergy abuse claims with the bankruptcy court, and sale of the church’s assets will be used to compensate them.

Kressel in January approved the sale of the archdiocese’s Monsignor Hayden Center to the Minnesota Historical Society for $4.5 million.

The archdiocese can continue occupying the archbishop’s residence and chancery offices until Nov. 30.