By Rosalie Tirella
As Jett, Lilac and I tool around Worcester in my jalopy, …
… running CECELIA/my newz-biz, we often drive by Notre Dame church – the wrecking ball and cranes breathing down its elegant neck.
It’s the only really beautiful building in “Main Middle,” that stretch of our downtown that former Worcester City Councilor Juan Gomez once claimed gets no aesthetic boost from City Hall cuz it was minority-inhabited and catered to people of color/the poor. No big, gorgeous murals for this neck of our urban woods, so workaday blah compared to other stretches of our “revitalized,” colorful, chi chi downtown. Yeah, the “luxury” plywood apartments are up here, but they’ll be gone in 35 years. Their fate sealed in the quick, sharp pop pop pop of the nail guns.
Too bad the Worcester City Council is willing to throw Notre Dame – the one Main Middle edifice with architectural staying power – under a WRTA bus, however sporadically it’ll be running!
Our group of elected officials, comprised of good people with ZERO vision, are blind to the almost 100-year-old beauty staring them in the face: NOTRE DAME CHURCH.
The City Council and Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus are cowed by the beneficence of our civic do-gooders/downtown saviors, Hanover Insurance, the owners of all the City Square redevelopments and Notre Dame. Augustus and city councilors don’t want to get Hanover mad, make this piece of their redevelopment project tougher and more expensive. They want it hurdle-hassle-free for our rich benefactors – even if it means leaving Notre Dame in ruins!! Ashes to ashes…dust to dust…
Their reasons? Many are legitimate. A few stupid. But the main one is political: BE NICE TO HANOVER.
But local legal beagle Randy Feldman and the Save Notre Dame Alliance folks have A GREAT PROPOSAL:
TURN NOTRE DAME INTO A DOWNTOWN BANCROFT TOWER. Empty, free of tenants or businesses, so there’s no worry of redevelopment, tenants, installing furnaces, etc… But, like the big old stone church in Boylston, a hollow but GORGEOUS BACKDROP WHERE TOURISTS AND LOCALS CAN TAKE THEIR WEDDING PHOTOS, FAMILY REUNION PICS, EXPLORE WORCESTER’S HISTORY. And…While we’re at it: why not a farmers markets outside the building? Why not botanical gardens maintained by Worcester Technical High School botany or small biz students? Why not bring our technical high school students with internships in the life sciences aboard? Why not have them plan and plant the flowers, bushes and trees? Why not have the culinary students cater the wedding photo sessions or weddings? Prepare, sell or offer platters of goodies before the gorgeous, spiritual, uplifting edifice in warmer months – al fresco dining in the heart of downtown. Eating a meal before a truly beautiful backdrop. A money maker for the City.
The Hanover folks will give Notre Dame to the City of Worcester! – a freebie! Catnip to us Worcesterites! – IF THE CITY DOESN’T FLIP IT and Notre Dame’s reincarnation fits in with Hanover’s urban renewal dreams.
This USE is the perfect fit.
The lovely building is saved.
It’s not a money pit for the city – infact, it’s a tourist attraction.
Maybe even a money maker. To pay for its maintenance…
Our Worcester Public School students learn new skills while helping to keep Notre Dame a vital part of our community.
Hanover is given back the back area, BEHIND the church. The City gets the church. Hanover is HAPPY!😁😄😚 Worcester taxpayers are not disgruntled.
Notre Dame church, built by French Canadian immigrants during a time (early 20th century) when every Worcester blue-collar neighborhood was home to three or four Catholic immigrant churches. They ran the gamut: from cute (St. Anthony’s at Kelley Square) to majestic (Notre Dame and Our Lady of Mount Carmel off Shrewsbury Street, also fighting for its life these days). Most of these churches disappeared as our Catholic immigrants realized, thanks to our factories, the American Dream, and left the old neighborhoods for greener pastures 😎. Only a few of our cool old immigrant churches remain – times change, we know. But we also shouldn’t forget our history – relinquish our two great beautiful immigrant churches, the ones beautifully designed and built, stone by stone, tear drop by tear drop, by our stoic, stalwart immigrants! We must never forget their – my grandparents and perhaps yours! – signifying: WE ARE HERE, AMERICA! WE ARE SO THANKFUL AND JOYFUL AND HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY TO YOU!
Notre Dame and Mt. Carmel churches remind ALL Worcesterites of our great (and grubby) urban STORY! Remind all Americans – especially our President Trump!! – how aspirational and inspired poor, illiterate inhabitants from “shit hole countries” can be!