St Olaf Housing Project

Saint Olaf Housing Project

by Fr. Kennedy, March 24, 2019 bulletin

What if I told you St. Olaf is in the process of finalizing a plan to provide a significant stream of revenue for ministries and programs, upgrade our parking lot with covered parking, AND provide nearly 200 units of critically needed affordable housing in the heart of downtown? Well, it’s true and this expanded issue of the bulletin will provide many of the details. 

Parish leadership, staff, and I have been working with some outside experts to examine how our assets and resources might continue to support our mission and ministries. We follow the tradition that brick and mortar needs to point to the people, their needs, and their relationships: with God, others, and self. 

I didn’t make this up. For nearly 80 years, the people of St. Olaf have done this, and in my two stints here 40 years apart, I have witnessed this, offered my small part to facilitate it, as together we join hearts and hands to support and strengthen the activities of mission and ministry that will follow. 

Our assets and resources should not sit idle. Following the way of Christ means we do not only wait for the rainy day to come. We place our faith in God’s love that Christ will accompany us each and every day, rain or shine, and call us to reflect his mercy and compassion in service to the world around us.

St. Olaf has done this since it was established. Acquisition of the brick and mortar provided a place for community to form, but the people, with God’s help, did the work, not the building. When fire struck the building in 1951, the spirit of the people carried out the hard work of rebuilding so mission and ministry could continue. 

Similarly, the worship space has been renovated a few times over the decades, not to create a museum, but to enhance the liturgy, which literally means the work of the people. A new organ was added and sound might also carry us into a daily life of love and service. systems upgraded so music in praise of God. 

And a couple years ago, many people supported our 75th Anniversary capital campaign so we could renovate and update the spaces and systems that keep things strong, safe, efficient, and functioning for 21st century ministry. We opened the little used Cowley Hall to host the Adult Shelter Connect and serve those experiencing homelessness along with the collaboration of shelters in Hennepin County. 

The vision and momentum of staying in touch with the needs of the day has actively engaged our people and animated our mission of “serving as Christ’s saving presence in the heart of the city” since our founders first convened. They took their inspiration from the foundational love of God. 

St. Olaf has partnered with Catholic Charities and the Exodus building since 1995 and actively supported residents and programs over the years. We both acknowledge the substantial rehab needs of the building and the fact that neither of us has the resources to take on the project. Catholic Charities is making other plans for their programs currently in the Exodus Residence and has informed their other stakeholders. I informed them that we will conclude our lease with them, and we negotiated a final lease through June of 2021. 

In addition to the church/office complex, our little corner of the downtown universe has our parking lot, Assisi Park, and the Exodus Residence. These modest spaces have value related to our mission. With the help of Pat Ryan and Ryan Cos., we were connected to developers of affordable housing who made proposals for our consideration. 

One proposal stood out, and after thorough review, parish leadership (Parish Advisory Board and Financial Advisory Board) unanimously agreed to have St. Olaf move forward with the proposal to develop affordable housing with Aeon. Aeon’s proposal will rehab the Exodus building (96 units), add 27 units of new housing on a portion of the park (keeping some green space), as well as constructing 70 units of housing above the St. Olaf parking lot (193 total units). We stand to grow as a parish with new members from these new housing units. 

Once completed the parking lot will be 60 covered spaces for dedicated use by St. Olaf. We know we will need a plan to manage the temporary disruption of parking during construction, but we have time to put this in place. 

Financially, the parish will lease the land to the developers for $120,000/year with an increase of up to 3%/year for inflation. The lease will likely be at least 49 years, but 60-90 years is possible. Of course, projects evolve over time and the specifics surrounding this will evolve as well. 

Every day we see the impact of the lack of affordable housing. Every day we know the importance of securing enough financial support to keep ministries moving along. And every day the challenge of parking downtown greets you, our members and visitors. This plan seeks to address all of these concerns in a substantial way, not for brick and mortar’s sake, but by using our assets and resources to support our mission and God’s people. 

As the current community of St. Olaf Catholic Church, we inherited much from our founders and those who followed them. The dedicated support and faith of members and visitors today will allow us to hand on even more to those who follow us. 

There are many details to work out and concerns (like parking) to be managed through construction. The communication channels will be kept open and active. Your thoughts and questions are most welcome. But the energy of an effort like this, like those before us, will fuel our daily ministries and mission. In these pages you will find information, hope, and excitement for the future of our mission here at St. Olaf. It is planned the actual remodeling/construction will begin late summer of 2021.

 



ST. OLAF CATHOLIC CHURCH
215 S. 8TH STREET, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA 55402
612-332-7471
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