Village of St. Johns
The fate of a landmark church complex, historic and massive, but long vacant, is a mystery no more.
After years facing an uncertain future including possible sale for shoppingdevelopment, the Cathedral Church of St. John at North Market Streetand Concord Avenue, will continue to host the Lord’s work.
So say leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware that owns the site, the Ministry of Caring that is acquiring it and folks in the Brandywine Villageneighborhood, where worries grew during its continued vacancy that a bad decision about its future could have been disastrous for the community.
The Ministry of Caring, a nonprofit known for its Emmanuel Dining Room network to feed the needy, plans to convert the stately stone church and office building into much-needed housing for moderate- and lower-income elderly residents.
Gov. Jack Markell praised the project, saying Ministry of Caring founder and executive director Brother Ronald Giannone has "made a powerful case" for the plan's ability to serve the needs of moderate- and lower-income seniors.
This project will to transform the church site— with a total pricetag nearing $15.7 million—has support not only from the state, but also from the county, city and area legislators, Giannone said. A market study also showed plenty of need for housing includingmoderate to lower income seniors and the working poor age 62 and older, he said.
Apartments will be offered at fair market value, with the only exception being veterans who have federal vouchers, Giannone said. The church's main sanctuary will be kept as a gathering area similar to that at Cokesbury Village in Hockessin and the small St. Mary's Chapel,off its altar area, would be maintained as "an inter-religious chapel where all may worship," he said.
With 53 units expected to total 116 residents, he also envisions the project as "the spark that lights the fire" for economic redevelopment needed in the area that once bustled with small businesses.
Giannone envisions a couple of sit-down restaurants, pizzeria, sub and sandwich shop, dry cleaner, florist —maybe more — in existing buildings that already have street-level storefronts and upper residential space.
Ultimately, he would like to see the project lead a broader renaissance of the historic area, which could serve as an ideal gateway to the city.
"It's going to be a very challenging project," Giannone said.
Dec 23, 2015
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