West Side News

Cristo Rey chief excited about Deaf School purchase, plans


Calling it an "amazing opportunity," the president of Cristo Rey Columbus High School is upbeat about the potential move to the former Ohio School for the Deaf in downtown Columbus.

The Catholic school's board of trustees on March 19 was expected to approve the $1-million purchase of the facility from the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

"It's an amazing opportunity when you think about it," said Jim Foley, president of Cristo Rey Columbus. "The location is going to put education right at our front door -- not just the library but the entire Discovery District."

In January, CML paid $2.16 million for the Deaf School, 400 E. Town St. Last week, the library approved the sale of the facility to Cristo Rey, now located at 840 W. State St. on the Near West Side.

"I certainly think this is a transition that's in the best interest of the school," Foley said.

He said the 88,000-square-foot building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will require significant renovation.

"We're still working on the price tag," he said. "It will be a very substantial amount of money."

Foley said the school will apply for state and federal tax credits to offset the cost of the renovation.

Cristo Rey will open in the temporary State Street location with just a freshman class this fall. Foley said the Deaf School building is expected to be renovated by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, when a freshmen and sophomore class will enroll. A class will be added each of the following two years, bringing the eventual total of students to 400 to 500 and the staff to 60 to 65 members.

CML will retain about a half-acre of land between the Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave., and Topiary Park, connecting the library to a significant outdoor asset and green space.

That breaks down to about $60 a square foot, said Gregg Dodd, a spokesman for the library.

"We think that is a great deal for CML," Dodd said. "Had we kept that building, the initial estimates were up to $6 million for renovation costs. So while we're selling the building for $1 million, the Columbus Metropolitan Library doesn't own the building and isn't responsible for the rehab costs."

The favored plan for the new outdoor space calls for creating a terrace area that overlooks the park, which is owned by the city of Columbus. Officials hope to select architects by June to do the initial design work.

"We think it will take about a year to work through the design," Dodd said, noting that by late 2014, library officials hope to break ground on the eastward expansion, and anticipate wrapping up the project by 2016.