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Community rallies in last-ditch effort to save old St. Paul church from demolition

Updated: July 22, 2019 06:58 AM

A nearly 100-year-old church may soon be torn down, but there's one last-ditch effort to save it.

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The former St. Andrew's Catholic Church along Como Avenue is now part of the Twin Cities German Immersion School, but school leaders are exploring expansion options that include tearing the building down.

Organizers of the group "Save Historic St. Andrew's" said they expect to know the building's fate by Monday. If their final appeal doesn't work, the former church could be torn down as soon as Tuesday. But, like they've done for more than a year now, they're not going down without a fight. 

RELATED: St. Paul planning commission votes on site plans for German immersion school

"It's at the heart of St. Paul and we can't rip out the heart of St. Paul," said Joe Peroutka, who attended Sunday's rally.

On Sunday, dozens met at the steps of the former church, built in the 1920s.

"We get so close and then there's a barrier that stops us in our tracks," said Bonnie Youngquist, organizer of the group "Save Historic St. Andrew's."

Youngquist has helped lead the way to keep the building standing, even taking the case to city hall where the council voted not to give this a historic designation. Now, they're down to their final emergency appeal.

"It really is heartbreaking to think that this building could go down when it's not necessary," Youngquist said. 

But the German Immersion School now owns the property and uses it as a gym and a cafeteria. Badly in need of more space, school leaders stressed they've explored every option and asked for community input. They believe tearing down the church is the best option.

"When I see a building like this, I see opportunity, and when I hear a wrecking ball is going to tear it down it's incredible disappointment," said Elsa Maria Schroeder, who attended Sunday's rally.

Win or lose, this community knows they've done their best to protect this piece of the neighborhood, and moving forward they're inspired to create a broader idea of historic preservation.

"It's the neighbors who save communities," Peroutka said.

"This is just the beginning, if this goes down we have our work cut out for us. We're not going to let this happen again," Youngquist said.

Organizers say they also have a national historic designation pending, but that would not protect the building from demolition.

School leaders released a statement saying, "this issue has been difficult for the community and we are glad to be moving forward."

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Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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