College to buy church property
By KEVIN O'CONNOR STAFF WRITER | May 25,2010
FILE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Vermont Catholic Church diocese’s central office is shown in this 2008 photo. Vermont’s Roman Catholic Church is going to sell its headquarters building and 32 acres of land in Burlington overlooking Lake Champlain to Burlington College.
Vermont's Catholic Church will sell its historic 32-acre headquarters overlooking Lake Champlain to the alternative liberal arts Burlington College.
The state's largest religious denomination, needing more than $20 million to settle almost 30 priest misconduct lawsuits against it, will sign over its hub in Burlington's Old North End — placed on the market six weeks ago for $12.5 million — for an undisclosed sum.
"The Catholic diocese didn't want us to divulge the amount, but our hope is we would be able to move in December and start our spring semester there," said the college's president, Jane O'Meara Sanders, on Monday.
The diocese, which also is advertising its 26.5-acre Camp Holy Cross along Colchester's Malletts Bay for $7.5 million, limited its response to a short written statement.
"While the diocese is saddened to be leaving a site with such a rich history of service to the community and the church, it is pleased that the property will continue to serve as an educational institution," it said.
The sale marks a bittersweet departure for the 118,000-member diocese, which developed the property by building the four-story former Providence Orphan Asylum there in 1884 and added its current three-story Bishop Brady Center in 1940.
But it's a new beginning for the 200-student college, which plans on moving from its 16,000-square-foot facility a third of a mile south to the 80,000-square-foot, three-building complex.
The school is one of the few potential buyers that wanted to renovate rather than raze the brick structures and preserve rather than develop or divide the surrounding property — the largest open tract of land in the state's most populous city and big enough to hold almost 650 housing units.
The college, as a result, will supplement current offerings in transpersonal psychology, film production and legal and justice studies with a new major: "green" historic preservation.
"The diocese would only sell it all as one parcel, and that fits beautifully with us," Sanders said. "We're bursting at the seams and were planning on building, but when this came up, it seemed a much better idea. This will be truly transformative for the college."
The school will seek permits and financing — it soon will launch a $4 million capital campaign to buy and renovate the complex — then will relocate its administrative offices, classrooms, library and student housing.
"Currently we have our graduation off-campus because we're too small," Sanders said. "Now we'll be able to preserve the historic nature of the property and do it in a way that invites the public in."