New Catholic girls' high school in Wixom delayed
|December 10, 2008 -
Construction of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy
project in Wixom, formerly slated to break ground on Nov. 17, has been
postponed due to unfavorable bond market conditions.
Mike Dewan, chairman of the board of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy Foundation, said the foundation is eager to start construction but there's no market to sell their tax exempt bonds.
"We're waiting for the credit market to thaw," he said. "This hiccup in the economy has put our plans on hold temporarily, but we've got everything ready to go the moment we see a fiscally-responsible opportunity."
Saint Catherine of Siena Academy, expected to serve as a sister school to Detroit Catholic Central in Novi, was approved by Wixom's Planning Commission to rezone a 30.69-acre parcel located at the northeast corner of 12 Mile and Napier Roads — 24.22 acres of that parcel would accommodate a private high school for 700 girls, and 6.47 acres of the parcel will allow for a planned neighborhood commercial center.
The development agreement covers an area comprised of approximately 30.03 acres that includes a 141,862-square-foot building footprint for the Catholic school. It also accommodates three athletic practice fields, an approximate 7,744-square-foot convent, a varsity track and soccer field, concession building, tennis courts, a varsity softball field, and a host of mandated improvements.
Overall costs are estimated at $30 million.
According to Ed Turek, vice chairman of the Saint Catherine of Siena Academy Foundation, officials intended to close on the bonds on Nov. 7, when their investment broker advised them that due to unprecedented conditions in the credit markets, a market to sell their bonds doesn't currently exist.
"We were hoping to sell at 6.5 percent but our investor, Oppenheimer, said we wouldn't get enough return right now," he said. "Let's face it — people are fearful where to put their money right now."
The entity was fastidious in its endeavors to get the school up and running by fall 2009.
It obtained the necessary approvals from the Archdiocese of Detroit and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to operate a Catholic girls high school as a non-profit Catholic institution where the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist had agreed to administer and staff the school.
The initiative was plowing forward by securing temporary office space in the Lyon Tech Park, roughly 2 miles from the building site, and hiring personnel such as Director of Development Janet Filip and Director of Stewardship Sean Lavell, while recruiting lay faculty and administrative staff.
Architectural drawings for both the school building and convent have been finalized, as well as the basic framework for the school's curriculum and faith formation programs.
Dewan and his immediate staff compiled a formal business plan including financial projections and an operating budget to meet the requirements necessary for the sale of bonds through the Michigan Strategic Fund.
"We have a 'letter of confidence' from Oppenheimer stating that by end of the first quarter we'll be one of the first ones in the bond market," Turek said. "We're staying optimistic. This way it gives us more time to market the school and build a full facility prior to opening. Before we would have been building while the school was in session."
The consensus is to postpone construction until the spring of 2009 and subsequently opening the school doors in the fall of 2010.
According to Dewan, the entity still intends to accept a full freshman class and those sophomores who wish to transfer in during the school's first year.
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