Charter school group to buy Greek Church: Purchaser wants to talk to neighborhood about needs

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A not-for-profit that runs roughly 60 schools nationwide has agreed to purchase the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox church at 40th and Pennsylvania streets.

Imagine Schools Nonprofit Inc. hopes to set up a charter school at the site, but Jason Bryant, the corporation’s vice president in charge of Illinois and Indiana operations, said it first wanted to hold community meetings to get input on what’s needed.

“There is flexibility for each individual school to set its own curriculum,” Bryant said. The company operates a range of schools: some are focused on remediation while others focus on arts or athletics.

The corporation tries not to compete with traditional public schools but rather “fit a niche need,” Bryant said.

Imagine and Holy Trinity leaders signed a purchase agreement June 29 that makes the sale final pending Imagine’s ability to get the land rezoned for a school and obtain a charter.

Bryant said Imagine is a 2-year-old organization that’s had some successes and some failures, including some problems it inherited when it bought Chancellor Beacon Academies in June 2004. It doesn’t yet run any schools in Indiana, though it is trying to start one in Fort Wayne.

Bryant said the company was interested in the Indianapolis site due to the area’s dense family population and general feel.

“It’s a gorgeous neighborhood and a great facility,” he said.

The church has been a key member of the neighborhood, hosting community meetings and the annual Greek Fest and offering an open space where children gather to ride bikes and play baseball. Whether neighbors will be enthused about the new use for the church and its connected cultural center remains to be seen.

“If the school is as good and gracious a neighbor as the church, we’re in good shape,” said Carl Pebworth, presidentelect of the Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association.

“Our end of the neighborhood is intensely interested in what’s going to go on at the site,” he added. “But from the neighborhood association’s perspective, I think it’s still a bit too early to say [what the reaction is].”

The three-acre site with its 22,000 square feet of space has been on the market since October, listed for $2.35 million. Thomas Cortese, senior real estate broker and principal at locally based Acorn Group Inc., was the selling agent and is also a member of the parish. He declined to disclose the sale price.

The church is selling the building, which has housed the parish since 1960, to move to a 120-acre site in Hamilton County at 126th Street and Shelborne Road to be closer to where most of the congregation lives. Members have already pledged $5 million of the $7.8 million needed to build the first phase of the church, according to Dr. Dennis Dickos, chairman of the steering committee formed to move the church.

The church enlisted Byzantine architecture expert Christ Kamages to design the new temple. Built in phases, it will be closely tied to the church’s historic roots-with a traditional dome and faithinspired iconographic art throughout.

Ground breaking is scheduled for this fall with the first phase of the church, and a possible move, scheduled for late 2007. In the interim, the church-and this fall’s Greek Fest-will stay in Meridian Kessler.

The building at 40th and Pennsylvania streets has housed Holy Trinity since 1960.

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