The former St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church in Fells Point, a landmark for working class Polish immigrants for decades, is being converted into an expansion of a private Montessori school, the developer said Tuesday.
Now located in the convent building, The New Century School will expand in size and enrollment next fall, said developer Larry Silverstein, of the Union Box Co., owner of the church.
Silverstein had tried to sell the church, asking $850,000 for the historic red brick building with a tall steeple that juts into the skyline of Fells Point.
But he said there were no buyers, and the school sought to expand, setting up the new development.
“We had interest,” Silverstein said, of potential tenants for St. Stanislaus. “We had a bicycle shop, theater groups, a yoga studio and even a mystic. But the deed stated that we could not lease it to any other church groups.”
Construction has begun on the $1.5 million conversion that will add 10,000 square feet to the school, which plans to increase its enrollment from 80 students this year to 120 in the fall.
Silverstein said he had spent $1.5 million to renovate the former convent into classrooms in the summer of 2010.
Next to the church, Silverstein has started to develop 22 rowhouses in a new project called Merchant Point. Most of the houses in the first phase are already sold, for an average of $600,000 each, he said.
Silverstein bought the 1.7-acre church property from the Franciscan Friars in September 2010.
The church was once a spiritual hub for Polish immigrants and their families after it was built in the late 1880s, paid for with wages from the immigrants. It has been declared a city landmark, and ineligible for demolition.