The historic property that was once a girls’ boarding school will become the new site of a Catholic school, according to a lease agreement between the Georgetown City Council and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.
Cardome Centre, a city-owned property on U.S. 25 near Scott County High School, will continue to be used as a site for weddings and to host events including the annual Kite and Cultural Festival, according to a short-term lease agreement approved Monday by the city council.
Eventually, Saints Francis & John Catholic Parish hopes to move its school, which is now behind the church in Georgetown, to 30.5 acres of the Cardome property.
The parish school has 175 students from all denominations in pre-school through eighth grade, said Maggie McGuire, business manager for Saints Francis & John Parish.
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The parish also plans to build a sanctuary that will seat 700 on the property.
Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather said the lease agreement is structured so the church will eventually own about half of the Cardome property. The city will retain ownership of 29 acres beyond a tree line, Prather said.
Under the agreement, the city enters into a capital lease and an option to purchase with the diocese for 20 years. The purchase price is $1 million. The city will rent the property for $50,100 a year, of which $50,000 will be credited to the purchase price. The rent will be increased at the end of the fifth, 10th and 15th years of the lease.
“This has been an important place to Georgetown for a very long time,” Prather said. “This preserves it and returns it to the highest and best use of the property.”
Harry Dadds, legal counsel for the parish, said in a statement: “We recognize the great opportunity that we now have and also recognize that with any great opportunity will come challenges. We have a transition team in place and will meet those challenges, as we maximize the use of Cardome as an asset not only for our faith-based community, but for the people of Georgetown, Scott County and beyond.”
McGuire said the lease agreement is a good deal for the parish because there is more opportunity to expand. “We are limited by what we have here” at the corner of East Main and Military streets in Georgetown, she said.
The parish also plans to open a retreat and conference center, using existing space and some new construction, according to an economic-development plan presented to the city council.
The parish intends to transform Cardome into a “cultural and historic destination site highlighting the rich Catholic heritage of the area,” according to the economic-development plan.
Weddings have not been booked at Cardome this year while lease negotiations were held. But the parish plans to restart those rental activities after assuming responsibility for the property.
The parish’s economic-development plan includes plans to expand child day care, reopen a kitchen as a food service facility for “less fortunate members of our community,” host classes for adult education and English as a second language, open a thrift store, and develop athletic and recreation facilities for use by the parish school and the public.
In 1896, the Sisters of the Visitation, a religious order founded in France, bought Cardome and turned it into a boarding school. (The word Cardome comes from the Latin phrase “cara domus,” meaning “dear home.”) The nuns led lives so cloistered that they remained behind tall hedges or ornate grillwork barriers when visitors came to tour the grounds or attend Mass.
When the cloister closed in 1987, a $1 million grant from Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A. turned the property into a community center.
A senior citizens center and a Montessori school will remain on the Cardome property, Prather said.
The lease agreement approved Monday is for six months. A more detailed lease agreement is to be presented to the city council at a later date.
The city intends to use a $100,000 state grant received several years ago to fix a bulging wall and a leaking roof, Prather said.
A resolution approved by the city council terminates an existing lease agreement with an organization called the Cardome Academy Association. That group had hoped to turn Cardome into a museum of the written word.