A deal to transform the former Good Shepherd Catholic Church on Wapping Street into an arm of the city museum has fallen through, officials with the city and church say.
Jim McCarty, co-director of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites, said budget constraints doomed the deal, and Good Shepherd has decided to sell the historic downtown property, built in 1850.
The former church, which underwent a desacralization ceremony in February 2011, would have been a satellite exhibition hall for the Capital City Museum with a $1 yearly lease. Traveling exhibits and large, temporary showings would have been featured there.
“If they can sell it and make some money, it’d be a good deal for them,” McCarty said. “We’ll continue to look maybe for another building somewhere down the road.”
Huston Wells, of the nonprofit Good Shepherd Center Inc., said he was “a bit disappointed” because he felt the church would’ve been a natural fit for both the museum’s mission and as a downtown institution.
“It’s unfortunate,” Wells said. “Times are tough and the city’s under a budget crunch, and it’s just one of those things that didn’t work out.
“We’re sorry it didn’t work out because I personally thought it would be a perfect fit, but we understand.”
Good Shepherd Center Inc. will refund all donations, including $10,000 from both the city and county in fiscal year 2011, in two to three weeks, Wells said.
The impending retirement of Curator Nicky Hughes, who was set to oversee the satellite museum, also complicated matters, McCarty said. The department cannot hire a replacement for Hughes under the city’s hiring freeze.
“With Nicky retiring, we’re kind of not pushing (the search for another museum property) real hard because we’ve got four unfilled positions, and when Nicky leaves we’re going to have five,” McCarty said.
“… It’s tough to do things when you don’t have a curator.”
The city would have spent at least $12,000 building new restrooms at the site, McCarty said, and also been responsible for insurance, maintenance and upkeep, according to a lease agreement presented to the city in December 2010.
Good Shepherd has two other properties available for sale near the downtown church – the 1920 school building for $600,000 and former site of the school’s gymnasium for $300,000.
Wells said keeping the properties together may be a better selling point. He hopes the historic church will be sold to another congregation.
“I think that the church … could sell it to another church, and I think there could be some options available in the near future that they might be able to use it as a church,” Wells said.
Wells said some interested parties had looked at the church more than a year ago, and Good Shepherd was in negotiations at some point.
Joy Swatzyna, real estate agent for Century 21, said three or four have looked at the former school.