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Published: Wednesday, 8/4/2004

Toledo: Central Catholic begins 10-year expansion

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lagrange Village Council members said when they look at Central Catholic High School from Cherry Street, they see a beautiful campus that would rival many around the state.

But when they see the back of the school, the deteriorating state of sidewalks and high grass would be an embarrassment to any neighbor. Because the back of the school is across the street from many homes in the area, the council has asked the school to clean up and spruce up the area.

"You would think you're looking at two different schools," said Beth Lewandowski, president of the Lagrange Village Council. "We were promised landscaping on the back side [of Central Catholic]. We would like to see some taller trees there to help buffer the noise.

"Central Catholic gave us a commitment of staying in the neighborhood and we're happy about that. All we are asking is that they do what they have agreed to do in the neighborhood."

Eric Stockard, vice president of institutional advancement at Central Catholic, said the school is working on a timetable to address many of the concerns brought up by the village council. Mr. Stockard said Central Catholic's new president, the Rev. Dennis Hartigan, recently replaced the Rev. Gregory Hite. Father Hartigan was the president of the Lima Central Catholic High School before coming to Toledo.

"[Father Hartigan] has been here for 31 days and he's already met with [Toledo councilman Michael Ashford] twice about this issue," Mr. Stockard said.

Central Catholic is beginning a 10-year expansion program during which the school will purchase some property along Walnut Street where the school plans to expand its football stadium and other athletic facilities.

"Some of things they want us to do we can't until after our expansion project," Mr. Stockard said. "Some of the things wouldn't be financially prudent. We are concerned about the curbs and cutting the grass. We are looking at what can be done now and what will be done in the future. We've always been a good neighbor and we will continue to have an open dialogue with the [village council]."

Mr. Ashford said the sidewalks and curbs are the city's responsibility and said he has been working with Central Catholic to get many of the issues concerning the upkeep of the property resolved.

Bill Sutton, vice president of operations of Mercy Health Systems, said nearby St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center is starting a $90 million renovation project, including the construction of a $45 million, four-story Heart Center Pavilion along Cherry Street.

Mercy plans to begin with the expansion this fall and have all work completed by 2008.

Mr. Sutton said that the hospital will assist neighbors in Central Catholic's targeted expansion area find other homes in the neighborhood through possible grants for down payment, rehabilitation or donation of land.

Mr. Sutton said that will be done on a "house-by-house" basis.

Ms. Lewandowski said council had asked Mercy for a $1.5 million grant for a home repair and exterior program over a number of years, but the hospital declined.

Mr. Sutton said it was difficult to make such long-range commitments but added that the hospital system already contributes to many projects in the neighborhood.

Mr. Ashford said that despite the concerns, St. Vincent and Central Catholic have shown a commitment to improve their facilities over a long period of time to make the area attractive.

"Lagrange is in a great position because they have two neighbors who are not only great corporate partners but good neighbors as well," Mr. Ashford said. "I think they understand the concerns and I believe all of those things will be worked out over time. I believe they are committed to doing it."

Contact Clyde Hughes

at chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095



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