UST chapel expansion might be underground

| June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

An addition planned for the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, pictured, at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul is expected to be completed by spring 2019. Courtesy Mike Ekern, University of St. Thomas

An addition to the historic Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas will be the first project the University of St. Thomas undertakes in its new master plan for its St. Paul campus.

The chapel is expected to be updated with an event preparation room, a reception area and kitchen, and air conditioning, said Doug Hennes, the university’s vice president for government relations and special projects. In addition to campus liturgies, the chapel regularly holds concerts, funerals and as many as three weddings on a weekend.

The Opus Group, a real estate developer based in Minnetonka, will handle the design and construction, and Hennes expects fundraising to begin in the fall, with construction starting at a later date. The goal is for the addition to be completed by spring 2019, the chapel’s centennial anniversary.

The chapel was commissioned by Archbishop John Ireland, the third bishop of St. Paul and the College of St. Thomas’ founder. It was designed by Emmanuel L. Masqueray, who also designed the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. It was one of Masqueray’s last commissions before his death in May 1917.

The chapel was completed by Edwin Lundie, one of Masqueray’s assistants who became a well-respected architect in his own right.

The chapel is the third oldest building on St. Thomas’ North Campus and a university icon. Because of its historical and religious significance, its addition is expected to maintain the integrity of its facade and might be underground. Hennes noted that the chapel sits on a hill that slopes down to meet Cleveland Avenue, which might facilitate this particular need.

“One of the real sensitivity issues is the architecture,” he said. “One of the last things we want to do is anything to mar the exterior architecture of that building. … Extreme care will be taken in terms of the look and feel of the expansion.”

The chapel renovation is one of the campus master plan’s smaller projects. The plan also includes more housing, parking and academic buildings.

Hennes said costs have not yet been projected.

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