By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Diocesan headquarters is getting a long overdue makeover with contributions from the “Moving Forward in Faith and Hope” capital campaign. Staff and visitors are thrilled, despite the occasional inconveniences that major remodeling involves.
“Very little has been done in the past number of years toward any type of renovation” of the historic St. Vincent Center, said Vicar General Msgr. John Hyland, who heads the renovation committee. “There were hallways where the carpeting had split and duct tape was used to cover up the area.”
While the main building opened in 1896 as an orphanage, it has been diocesan headquarters for 36 years. A north and a south wing were attached to the main building in the mid-20th century when St. Vincent’s was thriving as both a home and a school which the Sisters of Humility operated.
Msgr. Hyland attended sixth, seventh and eighth grade at St. Vincent’s and appreciated the education he received there. He was not, however, one of the many students who got to write his signature in pencil on a classroom wall on the third floor in 1957. He’d already moved on to high school. The graffiti is among several “historic” finds from the renovation process, which also unearthed a high-top shoe, circa 1900, a metal roller skate frame and a couple of books — one on American paintings published in 1945 and the other on the ways of St. Anthony, published in 1921. Those gems are headed to archives.
Remodeling projects include transforming the largely unused third-floor into offices and large conference room; painting and carpeting of the first- and second-floor offices; replacing 335 windows throughout the building with energy-efficient ones; installing an elevator; relocating the third-floor chapel to the first-floor chapel, which is being expanded; remodeling of the kitchen and dining room; making all restrooms handicapped accessible; creating a multipurpose storage area in the basement; and enhancing technology throughout the building.
Outside, a visitors’ parking lot has been built closer to the main building and an employee parking lot in back has been improved and expanded.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $3 million, which includes purchase of diocesan headquarters and 5.5 acres surrounding it from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Msgr. Hyland said. Last summer, the university acquired all 58 acres of the diocese’s property from the trustee handling the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s liquidation of diocesan assets. The diocese borrowed money to make the $1.225 million purchase, but will pay back the loan with capital campaign proceeds.
The diocese had explored other options for locating its administration center, also known as the chancery, but the existing building is sound and it was the most economical solution, said Deacon David Montgomery, the diocese’s communications director and renovation committee member.
“The renovation at the chancery will provide office space for staff members who are currently using space outside of the main building. It will also provide more space for meeting rooms so that more than one large meeting can take place at the same time. This will enable more meetings and conferences to take place at the chancery including training for parish and school staff,” he added.
Msgr. Hyland anticipates more effective service with high-traffic offices moving from the second floor to the first floor. In addition, “we plan to have The Catholic Messenger move into the chancery on the second floor, which will enhance communication.”
Besides its business-related functions, the St. Vincent Center is home to retired priests who choose to live there. Providing affordable housing to priests in the diocese who have dedicated their lives to serving others is a priority, Msgr. Hyland said.
Clinton Engineering Co. is the general contractor for the project, but its workers and subcontractors aren’t the only ones making improvements. Bishop Martin Amos, a remodeling hobbyist, is helping on his day off to remodel a guest room for visiting VIPs.
When the remodeling is finished, moving days will follow. Some offices — including those of Bishop Amos and Msgr. Hyland — will move from the first floor to the third floor. The Social Action and Immigration offices will move from the second floor to the first and The Catholic Messenger will move out of downtown Davenport into the building. Msgr. Hyland hopes everything will be in place by September.