The Archdiocese is set to undertake a multi-million dollar project that will transform the area surrounding St Christopher’s Cathedral and enhance one of most historic parts of Canberra.
The redevelopment of the Cathedral precinct will see the building of church offices on the Haydon Centre site and aged care units on the adjacent block which currently houses the Cathedral presbytery and CatholicCare. The total development is estimated to cost more than $35 million.
The Archdiocese will hold public meetings this month, attended by the architect Mr Rodney Moss and members of the precinct planning committee, to explain progress on the project and to answer questions. They will be held in the old bookshop area of the Haydon Centre from 2pm to 4pm and from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday, 8 July, primarily for cathedral parishioners, and at the same times on Friday, 9 July, for other interested people and stakeholders.
Vicar-General Mgr John Woods said it was “appropriate and fortuitous that the completion of the proposed redevelopment of the Cathedral precinct will occur in time for Canberra’s centenary celebrations.
“The Cathedral is where, in liturgical celebration with our Archbishop and each other, we are most church; our worship of God renews us to live the Gospel message in this time and place.
“Church offices behind the Cathedral, itself adjacent to the ebb and flow of the life of Manuka, will symbolically affirm and enhance this connection between worship, service and mission, to the good of both the faithful and the wider community.
“Mgr Patrick Haydon, the first and only parish priest of Canberra, would have little envisaged what would develop on the Cathedral site. We can only ponder what might transpire over the next 100 years. What we do know is that the witness of faith to the good of the wider community will continue under God’s grace.”
Financial administrator Mr Herbie O’Flynn said while an accurate timeline for the project was difficult to set, it was likely construction would start in July next year and be completed fully by the end of 2012.
Overall cost depended on the eventual size of the office and aged care development. “At this stage, the planning estimate is that the office building will be in the order of $14 million and the aged care facilities about $22 million.
“The office building will be financed by the sale of the Favier House site in Braddon with any shortfall being met by a CDF loan serviced by office rental charges.
“The aged care independent living units will be funded entirely by loan and licence agreements with the residents.
“A fundamental assessment is that the Haydon Centre is no longer serviceable and needs replacement.
“On the other hand, the archdiocesan offices in Braddon are currently located adjacent to a site ear-marked for substantial mixed residential development and some distance from the Cathedral. Logically, the administration offices should be located in the Cathedral precinct.”
Mr O’Flynn said the office block at a minimum would need to be of sufficient size to accommodate archdiocesan offices relocated from Favier House, some offices from the CatholicLIFE agency at Yarralumla, and the offices of CatholicCare. Other church offices from Favier House and elsewhere in Canberra were also likely to be accommodated.
He expected between 55 and 70 independent living three, two and one-bedroom units would be provided under arrangements which entailed the Archdiocese retaining ownership of the units while residents occupied them under licence agreements.
The Cathedral parish would gain new offices, meeting rooms and facilities to provide for social gatherings after Mass. The presbytery would be incorporated into the office building.
“The Cathedral and its surrounds is in many ways the jewel in the crown of the Archdiocese,” he said. “It has special significance for the Archbishop and for all Catholics of the Archdiocese. However, the special role of the Cathedral parishioners is being acknowledged and their views on the proposal will be vital to the detailed plans.’
The Department of Housing and Community Services had developed an extensive plan for the re-development of the “ABC Flats” in Braddon and had proposed inclusion of the Favier House, Sisters of Mercy and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference sites in development.
“In their proposal the Favier House site can be separately developed from the ACBC and the Mercy sites and will encompass a mixed residential development of up to 300 units. For this development to occur, a change to the Territory Plan will be required.
“The Archdiocese is currently negotiating with the Department of Housing and Community Services for the sale of the Favier House site on the understanding that a dedicated church site will be provided within the new development complex.”
Architect Rodney Moss (middle) discusses the project with archdiocesan
financial manager Herbie O’Flynn and Vicar-General Mgr John Woods.