After extensive consultation with the lay leadership of the parish, the Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, Mayor Adam Salina and the Town of Berlin, St. Paul Church will sign papers to purchase the Kensington Grammar School property.
“Everyone knows that we have outgrown our current campus. That is why we have been using the KGS property without permission for so many years. We believe that our decision is a vote of confidence in our parish and its future,” says the Rev. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv., pastor of Saint Paul Church.
It will cost $598,000 to purchase the property and estimates are between $1,000,000 and $1,200,000 to abate and tear down the building.
“We will pay for the property with $400,000 from our savings and a 5-year bridge loan from the Knights of Columbus,” says Schlageter.
“We have a lot of work and sacrifice ahead of us but I assure you this purchase is important for the future of our parish,” Schlageter told the parishioners last Sunday at all of the weekend Masses.
Salina met with the Parish Leadership in February and assured them of his support and the town’s support for the project. He promised he would do anything he could to help the parish in this endeavor.
“I am very happy that St. Paul Church is purchasing the KGS property. The building has been a blight on the neighborhood and our community for far too long. I know there have been concerns with previous proposals on this property, but as I explained to the Parish Leadership, I am just happy that someone will take an active role to clean up the property and put it to good use. This acquisition will not only benefit the church, but it will also have the least amount of impact to the property’s neighbors,” Salina said.
The church is purchasing the property for three major reasons: to secure parking for parishioners who have become dependent on the spaces; to protect the neighborhood from any future development; and to give future members of the parish the option to improve and expand services.
Once the sale is complete, the first priority is to restrict access to the building for safety reasons.
“In the spring, we will ask our parishioners for help in cleaning up the property as best we can,” Schlageter said.
For the foreseeable future, it will continue to serve as additional parking. Parish leadership will work toward abating and demolishing the building. Rehabilitation is not an option because of extensive deterioration.
“We have been told that the cost to rehabilitate the building would be over 5 million dollars, in addition to the necessary abatement,” Schlageter said. Some question why the church didn’t buy the property years ago when it was offered by the town for next to nothing.
“At the time, the Church had no reserve funds or savings to abate, or take down the building,” says Schlageter. “No one had done any environmental studies and there were lots of unknowns. I am also told that at that time the cost to abate the building was substantially more than it is now.”
As he leads his parish in this historical purchase, Schlageter is reminded of another Saint Paul pastor, Fr. Brennan who invested in the future exactly 100 years ago. In 1913, Fr. Brennan and the people of Saint Paul, decided to purchase the current property at the corner of Alling and Peck Streets after fire destroyed the original church on Main Street. “Can you imagine? They never thought they’d use all the land. We’re getting ready for the next 100 years.”