BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — Work crews are mobilizing at St. Joseph Church, the first step in the $20 million redevelopment of the 2-acre Lafayette Street property.
However, the demolition of the 1950 Catholic church and a convent is still weeks away. The buildings are not scheduled to be razed until late December, according to the developer.
In the meantime, site work and remediation are under way.
Fences have gone up around the International Style church and brick convent, which is behind the church on Harbor Street. Work crews are inside removing floor tiles and pipe insulation that may contain asbestos.
“The environmental scope of work is customary for all buildings constructed prior to 1980 and is expected to take several weeks to complete,” Lisa Alberghini, president of The Planning Office for Urban Affairs, the church developer, wrote in an email.
The contractor, Delbrook Construction Co. of Braintree, will put a construction trailer on the site in the next few days.
The contractor will also conduct a job fair, Alberghini said, “to solicit the involvement of local residents in employment opportunities that arise from the construction scope of work.” The date and details on the job fair have not been announced.
The Planning Office, which acquired this site in 2005, the year after the parish was closed, hopes to start construction this winter.
Meanwhile, the Rev. John Sheridan of St. James Church, where a large crucifix and other items from St. Joseph were moved several years ago, sent out an email recently to parishioners to keep them abreast of developments at St. Joseph, the former parish for many of them.
“I just wanted to make everyone aware that St. Joseph Church will begin to be torn down over these couple of weeks,” the pastor wrote. “The stained-glass windows have been carefully removed and are in storage, and every sacred object has been removed.
“Two pews from the church will be brought to St. James. I’m waiting to hear about the statue of St. Joseph,” a reference to a large statue buried under the church parking lot.
“In the cornerstone of the church is a time capsule that will be removed, and we will have a ceremony where Father Larry will open it.” The Rev. Lawrence Rondeau, the former pastor of St. Joseph, resides at the St. James rectory.
“The Planning Office for the Archdiocese has been very helpful through this process, and I am very grateful,” Sheridan stated.
After the church and convent are down, the Planning Office will construct a four-story building with 51 apartments, plus community and retail space.
The rectory and former school will remain, although plans for those buildings have not been announced.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.