People who frequent the ASU campus and the surrounding area may have noticed that there have been a certain number of changes to our fair city. One of the most striking is that the church on prominent display on the corner of Forest and University suddenly stands alone amidst a dusty hole. The fuming crater is all that’s left of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center—a religious community center and a small church, which has stood there for years.
The church on the corner is a historic building, referred to by Newman Center staff as the “Old Church.” The chapel itself is claimed to be the oldest of its kind in the valley and doesn’t seem to have its own name—actually, it does have a name, “Old St. Mary’s Church” but the name is never used and so it fell out of common usage—thus why it’s referred to as the Old Church. In a way, it’s rather endearing that Tempe has the culture to support a nameless church in our midst, rising from the riven landscape.
According to sources briefly available at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center website the heavy demolition began March 8, 2011 and completed March 18. Early estimates put the expectation that construction would begin March 21—obviously this has not happened as it is already mid-July 2011 and no motion has been made on the site.
It’s hard to tell exactly what’s holding up the construction efforts. Looking through their bulletins and constant calls for donations and charity it seems that perhaps there’s been stagnancy in fundraising. Not that fundraising has stopped, but it certainly has not been able to keep up with expenses piling up as the planning and demolition progressed. In fact, during the demolition plans the discovery of asbestos in the original materials that needed to be removed safely (an expensive prospect.)
The run up to the intended construction project has seen a strange history that has been chipping away at the original funds and left the coffers somewhat bare. Include in this the housing crash of 2007—and the loss of potential investors for the church—that lead to the loss of a huge pledge from a company who wanted to build a dormitory to the tune of $250k. Also, a significant percentage of the original fundraising had come through as pledges from the community and in the wake of the crash people lost jobs or found themselves unable to keep to their pledges.
Further, a political shake up with church management changing the staffing of the Newman Center from Dominican leadership to a different faction has caused a certain amount of animosity from the community. As a result, people familiarly connected with Dominican leadership backed out.
Between the economy and internal politics, and the beginning of the construction, this has thoroughly exhausted their finances and serves as a roadblock to starting as immediately as they hoped.
[Pictured above is the “Old Church” the only remaining structure still standing in the lot that once harbored the All Saints Catholic Newman Center. As a structure, the Old St. Mary’s Church has been in Tempe for over 100 years. The new chapel and community center are expected to be built up around it without affecting the old city architecture.]
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