LACONIA —The city is now the owner of two parcels of land which, until recently, made up the majority of the St. Joseph Parish complex on Church Street.
The purchase between the city and the Diocese of Manchester was completed Monday, Mayor Andrew Hosmer told the City Council a few hours later. The purchase price was $1,140,000.
The purchase includes the Busiel House, the former Holy Trinity School building, and a parking lot with 85 parking spaces. St. Joseph Church, which is located between the two buildings, was not part of the purchase.
Hosmer said the plan is for the city to put the Busiel House on the market as soon as possible and to use the money from the sale of the 155-year-old house to recoup at least a portion of the city’s purchase price for the overall property.
The Busiel House is assessed for $405,600, according to city records.
City Manager Scott Myers said a public hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 9 on the city’s proposal to declare the two buildings as surplus property. In the meantime, the city will put out a request for real estate brokers to submit proposals to market the Busiel House, which until recently served as a rectory — the residence for clergy assigned to the city parish. Any agreement between the city and a real estate firm made prior to the hearing would be contingent on the city declaring the historic building as surplus.
While Hosmer was optimistic that the city could find a buyer for the 5,266-square-foot Busiel House fairly soon, he anticipated it would take considerably longer to sell the much-larger Holy Trinity building.
“The school is going to require more investment,” he said.
Myers said the city would solicit for potential buyers to submit “expressions of interest” in the 21,400-square-foot, brick building. He said that process would be similar to the one the city followed when it was looking for a buyer for the old police station on Church Street, which is now the Binnie Media studios and offices.
“We’d want to know if the use a potential buyer has is compatible with the neighborhood, whether it is going to bring jobs, and information like that,” Myers said.
Monday’s sale includes restrictions on the deed which prohibit the buildings being used for activities which the Catholic Church considers immoral or blasphemous, including abortion services, live entertainment that involves sexual content, or the sale of pornography.
The fate of St. Joseph Church remains in doubt. The diocese has an application pending for a permit to demolish the church, an application the diocese insisted on keeping alive as a condition for agreeing to sell the Busiel House and school building to the city.
The church is no longer used for services, although it is open daily for private prayer.
The city and a community group are working to save the Gothic Revival-style structure, which the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance just recently listed as being among the state's most vulnerable historic buildings.
The existing parking on the site will provide about 85 parking spaces. Additional parking is seen as critical to future development in the downtown area.
The St. Joseph property became redundant in the years following the consolidation in 2010 of what had been three Catholic parishes in the city into one parish. The facilities of the new St. Andre Bessette Parish have been consolidated on the campus of Sacred Heart Church.
The City Council voted to purchase the former Catholic school building and rectory during a non-public session. The impending purchase was kept confidential during the latest city budget process, with the money for the acquisition contained in a bond listed only as “XYZ.” Hosmer and Myers have said it was legal for the council to take that vote behind closed doors.
The agreement for the city to purchase the property was announced jointly by the city and the Diocese of Manchester on Aug. 22.