CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) – A pastor at All Saints Parish in Corning is voicing his concern and grim outlook after the City Council voted down yet another plan to renovate the former St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

Father Matthew Jones wrote a letter to parishioners in All Saints providing an update on the status of the St. Vincent Campus. In the letter, Fr. Jones explained that on February 7, 2022 the Corning City Council voted down 5-4 a zoning change required for a development project on the campus. The project through the developer Housing Visions would have turned the former church campus into 43 apartments and a daycare center.

Jones said that Housing Visions was the developer who “stayed in the game” for the longest amount of time after two projects with two other developers failed in 2018 and 2019. He said the $18 million Housing Visions project “was the only proposal that worked on so many fronts.”

Now, St. Vincent “will likely just sit there and deteriorate”, Jones said, adding that it will likely be years until some new developer is able to take on the massive project. Such a project would require a huge amount of money and time and a zoning change, Jones said the “reality of redevelopment of St. Vincent’s is difficult”.

So now the parish has decided to board up the church and fence it off in an effort to prevent further vandalism, Jones said, as well as remove the stained glass windows. In his letter, he said the church has already been broken into many times in the last week, with several windows broken and even an alleged arson last summer.

“We really thought the Housing Visions plan was a win for the neighborhood by adding quality housing and
needed childcare,” Jones said. “Now we may have to turn in a different direction.”

Plus, selling a former Catholic Church isn’t simple to begin with. Jones said the Diocese and Vatican must approve any sale and that a church can’t be “used for anything profane or contrary to the Catholic faith.” This makes any potential sale all the more challenging,

The parish is responsible for maintaining the buildings on the St. Vincent campus since it closed in 2018. Jones said between insurance premiums, utilities, and the decay of the building, plus the rising costs since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the parish has paid almost $150,000.

“I do not think anyone will support a continuation of any effort to travel down this uncertain road, and to me, does not reflect the responsibility attached to being a good steward of our monies and resources,” said Jones.

However, Fr. Jones said he’s still cautiously hopeful that the Corning City Council will approve a zoning change at its April 4 meeting. But that’s a move Mayor Bill Boland reportedly said would require a Councilperson to introduce a motion to revisit the February decision and another vote to pass the zoning request.

In the meantime, All Saints Parish is left with an aging, vacant building. Fr. Jones said, “Given the history of our efforts we see little prospect to sell the property. We will no longer pursue active efforts to sell it.”

Fr. Jones’ full letter to parishioners, updating them on the status of St. Vincent, can be read below: