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For sale: Judge Memorial High School and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in SLC

Catholic diocese hopes to build a new state-of-the-art school near St. Ann Catholic Church on 2100 South to replace the century-old east-side campus.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Judge Memorial Catholic High School on 1100 East in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Just a year after the school’s centennial, officials with the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City have announced they hope to sell the land beneath Judge Memorial Catholic High School and adjacent church buildings and relocate them along 2100 South.

In an Oct. 8 letter addressed to parishioners on behalf of Bishop Oscar Solis, the diocese’s superintendent of schools, Mark Longe, said church officials are “exploring the possibility of selling the property” near 700 South and 1100 East.

“This exploration is in order to relocate Judge Memorial and Our Lady of Lourdes schools to a new state-of-the-art facility yet to be constructed, at an open space on the St. Ann complex,” he continued, referring to the diocese’s 14.4-acre campus around St. Ann Catholic Church, 2119 S. 400 East, in South Salt Lake.

Several sources said the diocese had listed the parcels for sale in recent days, based on plans under discussion since at least 2018.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Judge Memorial Catholic High School on 1100 East in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

The Catholic Church holds a little more than 7.7 acres in that placid residential neighborhood under and around Judge on the city’s east bench near the University of Utah, according to property records, with most of its land zoned for institutional uses.

Those prime lots will undoubtedly be of interest to residential and commercial developers amid the city’s latest construction boom and heightened demand for land.

Prized real estate

Judge Memorial’s aging facilities, which range from 40 to 90 years old, and the adjacent Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church “are inadequate,” Longe wrote, “and renovations are cost prohibitive.”

“A move of this magnitude,” he added, would be contingent on the sale value of the Judge properties and the outcome of a newly launched capital fundraising campaign.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kearns-Saint Ann School on 2100 South in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

The parcels’ 2022 assessed full market value, according to Salt Lake County, comes to about $3.8 million, though that likely is well below market value.

If both the sale and fundraising campaign succeed and leave the diocese with no residual debt, Longe told parishioners, the schools, rectory and church at the Judge location “would be consolidated with St. Ann Church and Kearns-St. Ann School.”

That would include Judge Memorial — traditionally one of Utah’s top-rated high schools nationally with 550 students in grades nine through 12 — as well as nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, an affiliated grade school and a rectory.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City referred Salt Lake Tribune inquiries to Longe, who did not respond Wednesday to requests for additional comment.

Principal envisions a bigger, better campus

Patrick Lambert, principal and a former student at Judge Memorial, confirmed the plans, noting that the school’s students, faculty and staff have made the best of increasingly cramped facilities and a lack of parking for years. Most high schools are built on 20 acres, he noted, and Judge sits on 4.5 acres.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Judge Memorial Catholic High School on 1100 East in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

“We’re looking to build a new, innovative, forward-driven school,” Lambert said, one “that’ll be able to take us into the next 100 years.”

The latest discussions on a potential move have been underway for four years, he said. “It’s not been an overnight decision. ... We looked at potentially doing a full rebuild on 4.5 acres, and there are a lot of challenges that come with that, including, where do students go to school while the build is occurring?”

Lambert said the potential move could mean modernized classrooms and other teaching facilities, more green space on campus and better energy efficiency. And he called the site’s access to light rail “a game changer.”

Renderings of a new Judge building and campus south of St. Ann Catholic Church were on display during the school’s 100th anniversary celebrations at the campus, held in late August after several COVID-19 delays.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) St. Ann Catholic Church on 2100 South in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Judge Memorial is the oldest Catholic school in Utah, one of three high schools operated by the diocese, along with Juan Diego in Draper and St. Joseph in Ogden.

The school’s footprint in Salt Lake City was originally occupied by Judge Mercy Home, a hospital founded by mining tycoons John and Mary Judge for Catholic coal miners in Park City suffering from black lung. It opened as a school in 1921, not long after John’s death.

The high school boasts strong academic credentials and was designated a National Blue Ribbon School in 2021, for a fourth time.

Nearly 70% of students at Judge are on financial assistance, Lambert noted.

Judge’s athletes, known as the Bulldogs, have long been a force in Utah’s prep sports and helped advance the popularity of lacrosse statewide.

The school’s iconic football field, funded by the largesse of members of the McCarthey family, offers a commanding view of the city’s skyline.

Judge tried to relocate before

Moving Judge Memorial is hardly a new idea. The school’s antiquated facilities and a lack of space have prompted several similar quests through the decades for new digs, according to Lambert, several alumni and former faculty members.

The Catholic Church sought to buy what was then called South High School — now home to a Salt Lake Community College campus — in the 1950s, Lambert said, and made similar moves on the old Jordan High School in Sandy in the late 1990s, before it was razed.

The diocese also got well along in negotiations to buy the now-demolished Granite High School at 3305 S. 500 East around 2015, he and others said, but that potential deal fizzled.

The latest iteration to moving Judge is reportedly bound up in a larger conversation about consolidating Catholic parishes in the city for financial reasons in light of falling church attendance, particularly at Our Lady of Lourdes, which opened in 1914.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on 1100 East in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Jean Hill, spokesperson for the Catholic diocese, declined to comment on the scenario of parish consolidation involving Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Ann, a shift said to require consent from Vatican officials.

Some longtime parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes are devastated by the church’s potential demolition. Though the building is more than a century old, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places nor is it located in one of Salt Lake City’s historic districts.

“Lourdes parish has had a very faithful, long-standing group that has attended Mass there every Sunday,” said Judge alum, former teacher, counselor and coach Sonny Tangaro. “That letter was a shock to their system” and, in his view, “premature.”

Also a former director of development at the school, Tangaro said alumni had mixed reactions to the prospect of selling the site, blending nostalgia for the existing campus with a recognition that its facilities had outlived their usefulness.

But he noted the private school faced challenges ahead. “The main challenge is, can they finance it?” Tangaro said. “That’s the biggest obstacle.”

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