Construction begins at former St. Scholastica Academy property

Work is underway for the redevelopment of the former St. Scholastica Academy property.

The acreage will be a place where people can live, work and play, right in the heart of the city.

The gymnasium came down Tuesday, the first phase of demolition that also includes removing a maintenance building, the indoor swimming pool and the tennis court. The next phase of demolition will include the removal of the auditorium and the enclosed walkway that runs from the dormitory to the classroom building.

All of the asbestos has been removed, except for in the dormitory, and that will be addressed beginning in August. Phil Lund, president of Homes of the Canyon, LLC, who purchased the 7.5-acre property in May, said the asbestos abatement process is a comprehensive and expensive one. It includes the testing reports on all buildings, abatement permits from the state, abatement, retesting and demolition permits from both the state and the city – each with asbestos abatement sign-offs from state-licensed companies.

“All was completed and is being completed,” Lund said.

He said everything was done by the book in compliance with state and local governments, by licensed professionals.

“The campus has languished for many years and it’s going to be good to bring new life back to it and remember the history of it,” Lund said. “I think it’s going to add a lot of value to the neighborhood and the city.”

Bob McCall has lived on North Seventh Street, adjacent from the St. Scholastica property, since 1977. He remembers seeing the gymnasium being built in the late 1970s, and on Tuesday, he stopped by to see it being torn down.

“You hate to see it go down, but at the same time, something’s got to be done,” he said. “It just sat there, nobody uses it anymore.”

His daughter attended preschool at St. Scholastica and played volleyball in the gymnasium with the nuns.

“If they can fix it up into something nice, then let’s do it,” McCall said. “I’m glad they’re doing something with it.”

Lund is working with the city to create a planned development district and move forward with the subdivision process.

Under the proposed plan, the dormitory building will be converted into 43 single-family condominiums — 29 one-bedrooms and 14 two-bedrooms. They will be individually owned, but it won’t be “low-income” housing. Along Floral Avenue, on the north end of the property, there would be 13 lots for single-family units.

A green belt would run from the condos to the single-family units through a business section which will consist of the old chapel and the former classroom building.

Chris Koehn, the founder of Second-61 and a Cañon City native, plans to convert the old chapel and the former classroom building into a technical workspace space for his technicians.

Denver-area resident and former St. Scholastica Academy student Cheloyne Mosher is formulating plans for the historic schoolhouse. Mosher, formerly known as Lonnie Miller when she was a student from 1970-72, has the opportunity for a time-limited purchase agreement to preserve the historic building. Her vision for the building includes potentially a space for community service organizations, physical and mental wellness services, arts and education, and/or professional offices.
She plans to create a nonprofit and begin to raise funds with the alumni to move forward with the project, which would require her to relocate to Cañon City.

The property will include green space for picnic tables and a bike path. Hand-hewn blocks dating back to the 1870s will be repurposed and used for an amphitheater in the green space.

“I am looking forward to having it done, having the fences gone and having it just be part of the community,” Lund said. “We don’t want this being an island, it’s going to be something that is totally accessible for people.”

Lund moved to Cañon City two years ago from the Denver area; before that, he lived in Michigan where he worked on similar projects dealing with condo conversions and served as a county commissioner. Homes of the Canyon already has worked houses in Cañon City, including a condo renovation project at Second Street and Macon Avenue.

“I’ve made this home,” Lund said.

The proposed PDD will go before the Cañon City Planning Commission for a public hearing at 6 p.m. July 24 at City Hall, 128 Main St. It then will go before the city council in August for public input and approval.

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