Edwards Communities Development Co. wants to demolish the former Mercy Academy school and St. Catherine’s Convent and, in their place, construct a four-story, 195-unit apartment complex, according to documents filed with Metro Planning and Design.
Edwards Communities Development is an apartment developer and management company based in Dublin, Ohio. It is a subsidiary of Columbus-based Edwards Cos.
The Mercy Academy and convent buildings, located at 1176 E. Broadway, have sat empty since 2007 when the all-girls Catholic high school moved into a new multi-million dollar campus on Fegenbush Lane.
An upscale apartment complex is the latest prospective reuse for the property. Past projects, including a rehabilitation center and a center for homeless women and children, were shot down nearby residents.
Mercy Academy leaders are hopeful that they finally have found the right use with this interested buyer.
“We are pleased to have been in talks with Edwards Communities Development Corporation for several months and believe that they have the expertise and capacity to develop a high quality product that will be a credit to the neighborhood and the city of Louisville,” school president Mike Johnson wrote in a email letter to current and former Mercy families.
“At long last, after much effort by many good people, this wonderful and storied location will have the new life it and the surrounding area deserve,” he continued.
Mercy Academy officials looked unsuccessfully for years for a developer who would use all or part of the original structure, Johnson said, adding that the new apartment complex will commemorate Mercy Academy and the convent with a historical marker along Broadway.
The building also will include certain design elements similar to those of the school and convent, the letter states.
The nearly 200,000-square-foot apartments will include two open interior courtyards, each more than 10,000 square feet, and 50 parking spaces at the back of the property, according to plans filed with the city. The project also includes buying the adjacent four-story, 398-space parking garage from owner Kindred Healthcare.
In the documents, Edwards Communities Development asked the city for a few variances on the project, including allowing the building to reach 60 feet in height.
Louisville attorney Bill Bardenwerper, who is representing the developer, told The Courier-Journal that Edwards plans to invest about about $25 million in the complex.
The company has not yet purchased the Mercy Academy property, which has an assessed value of $2.3 million; it is unclear if the estimated investment includes land purchases.
Jonathan Wood, vice president of Edwards Communities Development Co., couldn’t be reached for comment on the project.
Bardenwerper also told the C-J that none of the buildings were deemed worth saving from an architectural or historic standpoint.
Preservation Louisville Inc. has taken to social media to express concerns about the developer tearing down the nearly 60,000-square-feet of existing structures.
“OF COURSE (sic) Bill Bardenwerper says there is no historic significance at the old Mercy High School site,” responded Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of Preservation Louisville, on Facebook.
A post on Preservation Louisville’s Facebook page asked for input on whether the group should request a historic neighborhood impact assessment for projects like the Mercy Academy apartments.
Zickuhr told IL that Preservation Louisville has not decided whether Mercy Academy will become a specific rallying point for the organization since she has not talked to the developers or reviewed plans for the project.
“I only know what is in the media,” she said. But she added: “We are always going to be an advocate for historic preservation.”
School buildings lend themselves to being redeveloped as apartments, Zickuhr said, noting that the nonprofit Family Scholar House turned Maupin Elementary School in west Louisville into apartments.
The apartments at the Mercy site wouldn’t be the company’s first foray into the Louisville market. Edwards Cos. subsidiary Edwards Student Housing Management Co. built and operates The Province, a 336-unit student housing complex on Ruggles Place at the University of Louisville.