Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
February 12, 2001
Holy Cross convent for sale
Whyte Avenue landmark now a largely-vacant seniors' residence
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The Sisters of Holy Cross are trying to sell their large Whyte Avenue regional administration centre overlooking picturesque Mill Creek Ravine.
Today, the building is a seniors' home with 11 retired sisters living in the 51-bedroom, four-storey building that includes a chapel, 100-person dining area, gymnasium and commercial size kitchen.
"We're a smaller group and an aging group," Sister Sylvia Landry, the order's financial director, said of the sisters who are mostly in their 80s.
"We have sisters who are very old and not very well. For them to go from the third floor (bedrooms) to the cafeteria for dinner (main floor) - it's a long way."
The 35-year-old building has been listed since August for $2.5 million, but the sisters previously tried to sell it privately.
They had brainstormed ideas for the building as an alternative to selling. The ideas included renting or leasing it as office space or university residences.
The latter idea was rejected because the nearby Faculte St. Jean recently built a 100-student residence. Other ideas were not feasible because of the building's high operating costs.
"When we started looking at the cost, it became evident that we wouldn't be able to keep this up," Landry said. "It was expensive to operate." Potential buyers have expressed interest in the building, but no firm offer is on the table.
But whether they sell the building soon or not, the sisters are working on final plans for their new building at 88th Avenue and 90th Street. The new building will be about a third of the size of the present one and will be away from the bustle of Whyte (82nd) Avenue.
It will still be big enough to host retreats and assemblies. The sisters will take some furnishings with them, but the majority will be sold or given to local charities.
"We're going from 51 bedrooms to 14 bedrooms. We can't take all that with us," joked Landry.
Old furniture has been stacked up in the gymnasium awaiting an auction. The pews in the chapel have been sold to a new church in Bezanson, east of Grande Prairie.
But some of the artwork, including a terra cotta cross, two hand-carved wooden statues of Mary and 10 triangular stained glass windows from the chapel will accompany the sisters when they move to their new residence.
The building was built to accommodate 63, but it has never reached capacity. It is only full during the congregation's annual assembly or retreats.
The building was renovated in 1991 to accommodate the elderly sisters. Bedrooms and bathrooms were enlarged and railings were put in the hallways.
But those halls and bedrooms are empty most of the time. There is the occasional stir in the main entrance, but that doesn't last long nor does it happen often.
"It's a beautiful place to be," Landry said pointing to the convenience of the main street and the scenic ravine view. "We have a sister who puts out bird feeders on the trees along the back.
"The sisters will miss it. This was home. It's an institution, but it was home. It was a gathering place."
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