Nearly 100 visitors gathered for an open house at St. Andrew’s Church in St. Paul on Sunday afternoon, chatting over desserts as they brainstormed ways to commemorate the 1920s-era building after it is torn down.
Outside, however, dozens of protesters said it will take more than pastries to repair the rift between the Twin Cities German Immersion School — which plans to demolish the church to build a multistory addition — and the neighborhood.
Tom Goldstein, spokesman for the Save Historic St. Andrew’s group, called the event a “false reconciliation.” Despite the group’s recent defeat, his camp will continue to hope for a reprieve “until the wrecking ball smashes it down,” he said.
School board Chair Julie Alkatout said it was her idea to have the open house and “say farewell” event as a chance for the school and community to mend ties. She saw it as a success.
“I’m happy that people are here — it’s a good turnout,” Alkatout said. “I think people are appreciative to come in and reflect.”
The charter school has owned the building since 2013. It plans to raze it to create a $5.1 million addition that school officials say will better serve the 580 students.
“I’m excited for the kids to have another space that meets more of their needs,” said Anthony Laudon, who has four children attending the school.
Next steps include salvaging materials from the space and taking the structure down, Alkatout said, with the goal of getting the new building’s footings in place before the frost.
Asked if she would miss anything about the brick building with the colorful tile roof, Alkatout said “not particularly,” but then recounted how her son said he could throw a ball “extra high” because of the vaulted ceilings.
Many attendees Sunday were parents and their children who go to the school. But former parishioners came to say goodbye too.
Some were emotional; others took a more practical view.
Molly Walsh said her husband, Bill, was raised in the Como Park neighborhood. Four of their children and a grandchild were baptized at St. Andrew’s, she said.
“It’s sad, but you know what? You can’t do much about it. [The church] sold it,” Walsh said, pointing out the “crying room” where she once took her young children during Mass.
Mary Lou Nemanic choked up as she remembered meeting her best friend in second grade at St. Andrew’s school.
Jo Schwiderski stood in the rain holding a protest sign as visitors filtered from the church.
“Personally, I think they’ll never get the trust of this community again,” she said of the school.