Holy rosary

The redevelopment of the Institut du Saint-Rosaire is moving forward: “It is an essential element in telling our story” | New

A much needed infusion of state funding is breathing new life into the campaign to redevelop the Institute of the Holy Rosary.

The school’s redevelopment board will receive $ 500,000 from the state’s investment fund this coming year, with an additional $ 4 million set aside for distribution over the next four years.

The Holy Rosary Institute opened in Lafayette in 1913 as a Catholic school for African American girls, before becoming co-ed in 1947. The school was mainly run by the Sisters of the Holy Family, who taught the students and to local residents throughout segregation. The school closed in 1993.

The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation listed the site as one of the state’s most endangered historic buildings in 2014. Dustin Cravins, chairman of the Holy Rosary Redevelopment Board, said the roof of the three-story main building was on the point of collapsing on itself and that the walls had to support to avoid further degradation.

Obtaining public funding was a crucial step in saving the building, he said.

“Without (state money), I don’t mean it wouldn’t happen, but it would be very unlikely. This money seals the deal for this ownership of the Holy Rosary, ”Cravins said.

The state money, coupled with a $ 450,000 grant from the National Park Service, is propelling the first phase of the building’s redevelopment, which focuses on stabilizing the structure and reframing the interior, Cravins said. .

The council is coordinating with Lafayette Consolidated Government to complete an environmental study on the property. Then they will start an open tendering process to find a contractor to complete the first phase of restoration. Cravins said the group was in talks with the Community Foundation of Acadiana and other stakeholders to help them.

The objective of the project is to build a state-of-the-art community center that will include an emergency care center, an educational space, a theater, a museum focused on African-American and Creole history and the contributions of Holy Rosary, and a retail space.

Cravins said returning the property to its former high standard in the community is the best way to honor the old school and promote its civil rights mission.

“I think it’s important that people can go somewhere and visualize how these injustices happened not so long ago. It’s not to blame the subject, but an opportunity to make sure we don’t go back, ”Cravins said. “I think this is an essential part of telling our story and passing the story of our communities on to our children in a manner that is appropriate, respectful and truthful.”

Representative Terry Landry was one of the Acadiana delegates who helped secure the funding. Landry, who grew up in New Iberia, moved to Lafayette about 43 years ago and lives near the school. He said he frequently sees visitors reading the school’s historic marker and taking photos of the property.

A practicing Catholic, Landry said the school has an important place in the region’s religious community. Saint Katharine Drexel helped finance the main school building and Venerable Mother Henriette Delille founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, the order that operated the school and retains ownership of the property.

Regardless of religion, the school’s civil rights history is something anyone can respect, he said.

“It’s important for the African American community to know the value of this story and use it as a lightning rod as we try to make our community a better place to live,” Landry said.

Landry initially campaigned for state funding for the project in 2013. He proposed that a percentage of Lafayette Parish’s hotel and motel tax rebate be spent on the project, but the measure was rescinded at the time. State Senate.

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The majority of the parish’s hotel and motel tax rebate dollars go to the Cajundome and are used to pay off construction debt and routine maintenance and upgrade costs, according to a 2013 Acadiana article. Advocate.

Now that state funding is secure, Landry said it is important that people feel empowered by the funding and recognize that it is not a gift from the state; their taxes are used to fund a community project on the north side, just as state dollars have been spent on Moncus Park and other projects on the south side.

“People in this part of town pay taxes. People who have attended the Holy Rosary and who live in the community pay taxes. This is taxpayer money that goes back into a specific project, ”he said.

The estimated cost to stabilize the building and complete the first phase of construction is around $ 1.4 million to $ 1.5 million, Cravins said.

Instead of funding the project in a lump sum, Landry said he asked for state dollars to be spread over several years to ensure consistent financial support throughout each phase of the project. He also held back because he wants the community to come forward and support the project in the same way the state and local government have done, he said.

Cravins said the board aims to raise approximately $ 400,000 from the community to supplement the funding needed to complete the first phase. Fundraising over the years has been put on hold to ensure more stable fundraising flows, in part because of the large amount the group needed to raise. It’s hard to hit the million dollar fundraising goal by selling barbecue sandwiches, he said.

Another factor has been people’s continued confidence in the project, he said.

“People want to be reassured that this is not going to be an exercise in failed attempts,” Landry said.

There have been several false alarms about the salvation of the Holy Rosary over the years. Redevelopment attempts and campaigns have been going on for years with slow progress, for many reasons. In 2017, when the group received the National Park Service grant, the announcement generated excitement, but without construction soon after the thrill subsided.

“I learned through this process that we probably – in order to keep people engaged and to feel that something was going on – we were premature in some of our announcements. But what are you doing? “Said Cravins.

Cravins said he understands people’s reluctance, but the project is underway. Like many things, it’s a slow grind, he said. Once the construction equipment is present, he, Landry and other stakeholders said they were confident community members would come on board.

“It is up to us. It is important that the community come forward and do their part and put our money where our mouth is, ”he said.

Cravins said the group wanted more than the community’s money.

They want people to feel involved in the project and want to ensure that its eventual services meet the needs of the community. The group will announce future town hall sessions and meetings to get feedback and hear people’s ideas about what they would like to see on the renewed Holy Rosary site.

“We hope people will come on board,” he said.

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A much needed infusion of state funding is breathing new life into the campaign to redevelop the Institute of the Holy Rosary.

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