Legislation could redirect funds to Holy Rosary Institute

Advocate photo by BRAD BOWIE -- A bill filed for the upcoming Legislative session would provide state funds to redevelop the historic Holy Rosary Institute. Show caption
Advocate photo by BRAD BOWIE -- A bill filed for the upcoming Legislative session would provide state funds to redevelop the historic Holy Rosary Institute.

The historic Holy Rosary Institute on Carmel Drive would receive $200,000 a year in state funds for redevelopment under a bill filed for the upcoming legislative session.

The parochial school, which opened in 1913, served a black student population of local children and boarding students from across the country through the decades of segregation.

The main schoolhouse has sat vacant since Holy Rosary closed in 1993.

The main three-story brick building has been crumbling in on itself and the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation had listed the school as one of the most endangered historic sites in the state.

A group formed several years ago to raise money for restoration efforts but has struggled to find funding for a planned project to transform the old school into a community center, with a museum, health care clinic and education facilities.

“What we hope is to get this building back into commerce,” said state Rep. Terry Landry, D-Lafayette, who is sponsoring the legislation with state Rep. Vincent Pierre, D- Lafayette, a 1983 graduate of Holy Rosary.

The proposal has drawn some questions from Cajundome Director Greg Davis, who said he supports efforts to restore Holy Rosary but worries about the source of the funds — state tax rebates that now go to the Cajundome.

The proposed legislation calls for taking $200,000 a year for the Holy Rosary project from a rebate the state pays back to Lafayette Parish from the four-cent state sales tax on hotel and motel bills.

The annual rebate has ranged from $1.6 million to $2.6 million in recent years, Davis said.

Most of that money goes to the Cajundome to pay construction debt and for routine maintenance and upgrades.

“That is essentially our sole source of funding to maintain the Cajundome and the convention center,” Davis said. “We need every cent of that we can get.”

Landry said the proposed legislation is not a “money grab” and that an investment in redeveloping Holy Rosary will improve tourism prospects for the area and be a resource for the north Lafayette community.

“A large percentage of those hotels are in north Lafayette,” Pierre said. “Why shouldn’t some of the funds be spent right here in north Lafayette?”

Pierre and Landry said there would be no time limit on how long the annual $200,000 payment would continue for the Holy Rosary redevelopment project.

Landry said about $800,000 is needed just to stabilize the building, repair the roof and “get it back to where we could start to do something.”

A total of $2 million to $3 million would be needed for the redevelopment of the property.

Landry said the state funding, if approved, could be used to leverage federal dollars to restore the old schoolhouse.