WORCESTER (CBS) – It’s an important economic development for the revitalization of Worcester, but the cost could be a historic church that has been empty for years.
Monday, preliminary work began that will lead to the demolition of the Notre Dame Church in the next few months.
Despite failed efforts to save the building, some people are still not giving up. “It’s an uphill battle. We’ve used the words ‘Hail Mary,'” says Ted Conna, one of the leaders of the Save Notre Dame Alliance.
The full name of the church is Notre Dame Des Canadiens, a former Catholic church the Worcester Diocese sold in 2010. It was once the spiritual home to French Canadian immigrants who made the city their home. It also sits on the City Square redevelopment land, a project that’s giving downtown Worcester a big economic shot in the arm.
It has already resulted in an office building, a cancer care center, a swanky hotel and hundreds of apartments that will be ready for renters soon. What hasn’t worked is coming up with a plan that would develop the church site, without demolishing the church.
“There’s a renaissance going on in this area. You don’t have a renaissance by tearing down your last cathedral,” says Conna. But the City Square developers say they’ve tried, over many years, to find a project that would work, but the hurdles are just too great with the old building. “It’s a loss of history that we’re not going to get back,” says Conna.
The developer is leaving the window open just a bit, saying in a statement: “Until actual physical dismantling of the structure begins, CitySquare II will continue to consider fair and reasonable offers….although we have received proposals and inquires in the past, each withdrew after further consideration.”
Now in a last ditch effort, the Alliance will go before the Worcester City Council tomorrow to ask for more time before the building comes down.