By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT - The city has closed on a $1.1 million deal to purchase the former St. Francis Church property in the Cote Brilliant neighborhood.
Church and city officials called the deal good for both parties.
Newport paid for the property from about $7 million set aside to jump-start the stalled development called the Newport Promenade. The Diocese of Covington will pump the proceeds from the sale back into one of the area's remaining Roman Catholic schools.
The Rev. Rick Bolte of Holy Spirit Church said the deal was delayed after the original developer of the project dropped out last year. He said the city then stepped in and eventually agreed to buy the church property under similar terms that had been reached with the developer.
Newport City Manager Phillip Ciafardini said the retail plan for the Newport Promenade project calls for a shopping area at the bottom of what is known as Wiedemann Hill along Grand Avenue from 10th Street to Carothers Road. The development is touted as a plan to revive a neighborhood that city leaders said declined after Interstate 471 split the area in two.
The former St. Francis Church, at Grand and Chesapeake avenues, houses Holy Trinity Junior High.
Bolte said the school would move to the former St. Stephen school building this fall and become the Holy Trinity Junior High and Development Center. The St. Stephen building dates to 1912 and is undergoing a $4 million renovation.
The school will serve about 250 students from Holy Spirit Parish in Newport, Devine Mercy in Bellevue and St. Bernard Church in Dayton.
This is just the latest move by the church to consolidate after years of population declines in the three cities left parishes struggling. The St. Francis Church was one of four parishes in Newport that merged in 1997.
"We have been selling some of those properties to better pay for school," said Bolte. "This is just the latest deal to go through."
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