Petty: City won't prevent Notre Dame demolition

BY Zachary Comeau

Photo | Grant Welker
Photo | Grant Welker
The Notre Dame des Canadiens church.

Citing the skyrocketing cost of maintaining and building schools, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said Thursday the city will not take on the redevelopment of the Notre Dame des Canadiens church.
Petty’s statement comes in the wake of preservation groups urging the city to save the building, which has been slated for demolition by The Hanover Insurance Group, the principal of City Square II, which owns the building.
The City Council voted last month to meet with Hanover to come up with a solution for the church not involving a wrecking ball, but Petty said the city wouldn’t be involved in any potential project.
Acquiring the church, he said, is simply not feasible.
“With two new high schools currently in the pipeline which are expected to cost upwards of half a billion dollars, and $70 million in deferred maintenance to our existing schools, on top of the deferred maintenance in our residential stock that I hope to address moving forward, now is not the time to take on a project of this size or scale, without an intended end use and investors on hand,” Petty said. 
Hanover has exhausted all options to market and rehabilitate the building for a future use, but the numbers never worked, Petty said. 
The city met with the Save Notre Dame Committee, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and Hanover representatives earlier this spring for more than three hours, but those talks were for naught, as no feasible solution has surfaced, particularly in the absence of a developer or company interested in the project. 
“I cannot in good conscience recommend committing the many millions in taxpayer funding necessary to secure a building without a plan in place and the interest of investors necessary to see this project to completion,” Petty said.
Deborah Packard, executive director of Preservation Worcester, said the city will be losing an iconic building. 
It is tragic that we will be losing Notre Dame especially because it is being destroyed with no plans in place for the site," she said. 
Packard cited several other historic buildings in Worcester that have been repurposed, like Hanover Theatre, Mechanics Hall and Crompton Place. 
"Our community will be diminished by this loss and lack of vision," she said.