WATERVILLE — A plan to raze St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church on Elm Street and replace it with housing for the elderly is moving closer to reality, with officials estimating the demolition will be in spring or early summer.

In addition to the church, an adjacent rectory and church hall at the corner of Elm and Winter streets would be demolished to make way for the 40-unit housing complex, according to Mike Hebert, facilities manager for Corpus Christi Parish, which owns the property.

“Everything’s moving forward; it’s just slow,” Hebert said Friday. “We have to go through the same process as anyone else. We need a final commitment from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and the Planning Board.”

Bishop Richard Malone will preside over a closing Mass at St. Francis de Sales at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5, he said. In the last year, the church has only been used for weddings and funerals.

The 137-year-old, 21,388-square-foot church complex at 52 Elm St. had been for sale for more than three years before a decision was made to turn it into housing.

An application was filed with HUD in June for the proposal and it was accepted in November, according to Hebert. Since then, church officials have been working on a survey of the property as well as a design for the new building. The original application before the city’s Planning Board was for two-story housing to be built in two sections of 20 units connected by a common area.

The most recent proposal calls for a three-story building with 40 units, leaving more space for parking and green space, Hebert said.

Once approvals are in place from HUD and the Planning Board, demolition will take place, he said.

“We’re hoping for spring or early summer,” he said.

If the project is approved, the parish will sell the property to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s Bureau of Housing, which will get the mortgage through HUD, Hebert said.

The Bureau of Housing owns elderly housing throughout the state, including Seton Village in Waterville and buildings in Augusta, Bangor and Portland, Hebert said. Seton, which is south of Kennedy Memorial Drive, has 140 units in 70 buildings.

The Elm Street housing will be for people who are able to live on their own and not an assisted living residence, he said.

“It is not just for Catholics — this is a federally funded facility, so it’s for anybody,” Hebert said.

Tenants will pay a percentage of their income, based on HUD standards, he said.

A soup kitchen that operated in the church hall was moved last fall to Notre Dame Catholic Church on Silver Street.

Regular Masses haven’t been held at the church for some time. A holy day Mass was held at St. Francis more than a year ago. Last year, it was used for weddings and funerals only, Hebert said.

Some features of the church will be moved into the new housing complex.

“We’re going to try to incorporate a few things — stained glass windows; possibly the statue of St. Francis that stands on the roof over the entrance hopefully will be in the courtyard green space.”

He said other religious objects will be distributed to other churches or offered to other parishes in the state.

While churches are tax exempt, the housing unit will pay some money annually to the city in lieu of taxes, he said.

“The city will get some income out of this,” he said.

Waterville needs housing for the elderly, he said. Seton Village alone typically has a waiting list of about 90 people and Elm Towers Apartments on Elm Street has had a waiting list for more than a year, he said.

City Planner Ann Beverage said the Diocesan Bureau of Housing presented an informal preapplication for the housing project to the Planning Board on May 2 and the grant from the federal government was approved after that, she said.

Changes to the proposal are in the works and the housing bureau will return to the Planning Board. A date for that hasn’t been set yet. She said bureau officials are trying to determine exactly where on the lot to put the building, among other things.

“They’re working on the project,” Beverage said. “They’ve got all kinds of consultants working on it.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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