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Historical Commission will not study Mount Carmel property for historic district

Posted By January 21, 2017 | 6:00 am | Featured Article #1
Long-distance photo of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with top of facade removed.
Photo by Tanya Connor
Long-distance photo of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with top of facade removed. Photo by Tanya Connor

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

WORCESTER – The Worcester Historical Commission voted 3-2 not to initiate a study of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish property for consideration as a historic district.
At the Jan. 19 meeting, three of the five voting members voted against appointing the commission as a study committee, and initiating the study regarding establishing the 24-28 Mulberry St. property as a local historic district.
The commission listened to representatives of the Diocese of Worcester, which owns the property and opposed a historic district designation. It also heard from people involved with the Mount Carmel Preservation Society, a  group that sought the historical designation in an effort to keep the church building from being demolished.
Commission members discussed the situation among themselves and asked each other questions, while the audience listened.
Voting in favor of the study were Andrew Shveda and Randolph Bloom, commission chairman and vice-chairman, respectively. Voting against the study were the clerk, Robyn Conroy, and members Devon Kurtz and Mark Wamback. Cheryll Holley, an alternate, did not vote.
After the vote the audience was almost totally silent. People left the meeting room in City Hall.
“I’m happy with the outcome,” Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, Mount Carmel’s pastor, told The Catholic Free Press. “It’s sad.” But the money needed to fix the church is not there, though parishioners have been told for years about the need, he said.
Asked what the vote means, he said, “The bishop has not made any decisions. No decision has been made to take down that church on May 18.” He said they were just opposing the historic district designation. He and Father Richard F. Reidy, vicar general of the diocese, testified against it at the meeting.
The spokesman for the Mount Carmel Preservation Society, Mauro DePasquale, had to leave the meeting early, and was not there for the vote.
The Worcester City Council voted 9-2 Jan. 10 to ask the Historical Commission to look at the possibility of creating a historic district, after the Mount Carmel Preservation Society requested such a designation.
The diocese closed the church May 1, 2016 after architects said they could not ensure the safety of the building. Because of the safety issues, the diocese asked the city for a waiver of its demolition-delay ordinance. The Historical Commission denied the request. Any demolition was put on hold for one year and expires in May.

 

Council supports petition for historical district

By The Catholic Free Press staff

The Worcester City Council voted 9-2 Jan. 10 to ask the Historical Commission to look at the possibility of creating a historic district encompassing the campus of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street. The diocese opposes the creation of a historic district and is sole owner of the property. The request was made by a private group calling itself the Mount Carmel Preservation Society.
The church has been closed since May 1 after architects reported serious safety concerns. Work has been done to stabilize the steeple and the front wall of the building, which was pulling away from the structure. More than 40 tons of stone were removed from the upper part of the façade that had been crumbling and falling on to the sidewalk, according to the pastor, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone. Worshippers had to use the side entrances because the front doors had been closed because of the danger from the debris.
The diocese asked the city’s permission to demolish the building because the parish was unable to raise the estimated $1.3 million cost to repair it. The city has a demolition-delay ordinance and the diocese was seeking a waiver. Because the church was listed in the state’s Cultural Resources Information System, the  Historical Commission denied the request. The demolition request was put on hold for one year and expires in May.
Bishop McManus said the diocese would not exercise its right to demolish the church until after January 2018, if the City Council and the Historical Commission would not pursue the petition from the private group to make the property a historic district.
The bishop was offering the extra time so that the diocese could consult with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Worcester Regional Development Corp., on the feasibility of developing some of the property. Funds from development could be used to renovate and repair the church or construct a new, smaller church, the diocese has proposed.
In a letter presenting his plan, the bishop wrote, “If the process for an historical district is commenced, I will not be bound to the forgoing offer.”
Tuesday the council moved forward with its request for a historic district at the urging of the Mount Carmel Preservation Society.
Bishop McManus is away from the diocese this week. Father Richard F. Reidy, vicar general of the Diocese of Worcester, said Wednesday, “In light of the bishop’s offer and the conditions on that offer, we are disappointed with the vote. The bishop will meet with the Mount Carmel (parish) leadership and will continue to contest the historic district.”
The Mount Carmel Preservation Society, which identifies itself as ”parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, working together … to save our church and parish from being needlessly demolished,” has advocated for making the property a historic district and reopening the church for Masses as soon as it is safe.
The church cornerstone was laid in 1927 and the church was completed in 1928.