2018 Housing Development Services Success Story

In 2012, the Cathedral of St. John in Wilmington was decommissioned because its congregation was declining and aging. The loss of the Cathedral after 161 years as a place of sacred worship was mourned by the Episcopalian diocese, neighbors and Delawareans who had admired the glorious edifice on the corner of Market Street and Concord Avenue for generations. What would become of it? Would it fall into ruins like another historic building, Gibraltar, on Wilmington’s northern edge? Would it be turned into a soulless complex of offices – carved up and hollowed out? What of the priceless Tiffany stained glass windows, magnificent woodwork, original windows, soaring arches and beautiful grounds?

Enter Brother Ronald of the Ministry of Caring with his vision of preservation, restoration and renewal, which is transforming the Cathedral into 53 units of housing for low and moderate income seniors. Now known as the Village of St. John, one- and two-bedroom units will be available, including 36 units in the new three-story addition, with 17 units located in the historic buildings. Original details such as fireplaces, built-in bookcases, coffered ceilings and mullioned windows have been retained whenever possible.

The credo of the Ministry is “That the poor should never be treated poorly” and that has guided every step of the project. For the Village of St. John, this principle is enacted by providing housing that is affordable, connected and accessible, but also unique, comfortable and attractive. Every detail has been carefully reviewed down to the choice of shower curtains in the new addition. Tiffany windows and shower curtains – no detail is too small to ensure that the future residents will be happy in their new residences. The important communal spaces of the historic buildings – the nave, sanctuary and the beautiful chapel of St. Mary – will be retained as non-denominational communal space. Great care has been taken to preserve and bring to life all of the unique and historic architectural details of St. John’s, inside and out.

Obviously, this is an expensive and complicated undertaking. It couldn’t be done without a lot of technical expertise and appropriate financing. According to Chaz Enerio, the Ministry of Caring’s Deputy Director of Administration, “We wouldn’t be here, on the eve of opening, without NCALL’s help. We have done senior housing, but we have never done a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project. NCALL was very helpful at the outset of the project, helping us to do the LIHTC application; but they have been ever present throughout the process. They bear the brunt of the dense and sophisticated financial details to keep us in compliance with the program.”

NCALL’s Real Estate Development team has helped coordinate the project, assisting with all steps along the way such as developing the project budget, obtaining financing from multiple sources – including Low Income Housing and Historic Tax Credits - and monitoring construction progress through completion which is projected for Spring of 2019. It has truly been a privilege for NCALL to work on this important historic preservation and renewal project with the staff of Ministry of Caring, Inc.