February 11, 2016

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Downtown dilemma

Published 10:04 am Thursday, February 28, 2013

It seems odd when driving in downtown Frankfort to see Good Shepherd Catholic Church and the old Good Shepherd School sitting empty.

Since well before any of us was born, Good Shepherd Church has risen above Wapping Street looking at the Kentucky River. The building is more than 160 years old. The school is only about 90 years old.

The church and school have moved to east Frankfort, where parishioners enjoy new, modern buildings in which to hold services and educate those desiring a Catholic-based education.

The new church, located near the intersection of U.S. 421 and U.S. 60 (Versailles Road), has been the spiritual home of its members for more than 15 years now, though daily Mass continued at the downtown church until a few years ago.

The Parish Life Center was completed in 2007, and teachers and students moved to the new school late last fall.

We know parishioners hated to leave downtown, but the Catholic community in Frankfort had grown, and new facilities were necessary to meet its demands and needs.

Downtown, however, is left with two empty buildings and an empty lot next to the church where the Good Shepherd gymnasium used to sit.

A deal to use the church as an extension of the Capital City Museum fell through last summer, and representatives of Paul Sawyier Public Library looked at the building but decided not to pursue using it for a library expansion.

Members of the Project Development Board were interested in purchasing the vacant lot to use for parking for the new Franklin County Judicial Center, which is to be completed this summer.

The diocese, however, turned down the offer of $225,000. It has the school listed for sale for $425,000 and the church and adjacent lot for $575,000.

In the late 1990s in Lexington, the former Ohavay Zion Synagogue, located on Maxwell Street between downtown and the University of Kentucky campus, was purchased and became the home of Joe Bolognas Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Joe Bs, as many call it, worked hard to maintain the uniqueness of the building, and it became the first restaurant in Lexington with stained glass windows.

One difference is Joe Bolognas moved (across the street) during good economic times. Like most of us, the diocese could not have foreseen a recession and depressed real estate market when it made its plans to build and relocate.

One can envision apartments or offices in the old Good Shepherd School, but, admittedly, it may be considerably harder to find a use for a 163-year-old church.

It is understandable the diocese may want to sell the church and vacant lot as a package. But that may mean a purchaser would tear down the church for another project.

Were not in favor of seeing the property become a parking lot, what with two parking garages located nearby.

Like the parishioners, we pray for a solution that is in the best interests of downtown Frankfort, just as Good Shepherd was for so many years.