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Cathedral Cost Now Estimated at $102 Million

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The new downtown cathedral complex planned by the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese will cost at least $102 million to build, but in a turn of events that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony called “providential,” $106 million has already been raised, he said Wednesday.

The $102-million figure is more than double the $50-million estimate that had been widely circulated in the past, and does not include the cost of furnishing the four-structure complex. Nor does it include fees for architects or for attorneys who are defending the archdiocese against a lawsuit filed by Native Americans seeking to stop the project.

Mahony, in an interview, said the archdiocese always knew that the complex at Temple and Hill streets would be more expensive than the more modest project initially planned for the site of the earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana Cathedral--a project with an estimated price tag of $50 million. The new cathedral building alone is about twice the size of the one that had been planned for the St. Vibiana site, he said.

The archdiocese had not employed the $50-million figure to describe the new project, he added, acknowledging that the number had been widely used by the media and the public.

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“Fifty million is the figure we used at St. Vibiana,” Mahony said. “People just kept pulling out that figure” in relation to the new project.

The cardinal declined to give an overall dollar estimate for the total project, saying there are still too many unknowns.

But he added that pledges and donations to help fund the mammoth project continue to flow in.

“I’ve never been associated with anything in my 36 years as a priest that’s like this, with people wanting to participate,” said Mahony, still effusive over $30 million in gifts that came in within the past few days from donors he declined to name.

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“We’re ecstatic, as you can imagine,” he said.

Church officials still hope to complete the project in time for dedication Sept. 4, 2000, but Mahony conceded that that may not happen.

“That’s our hope and dream, obviously,” he said. “We won’t know until mid-1999 or later” whether the goal will be met.

No firm cost figure was given initially for the new project because so much of the design had not been completed, Mahony said. Until the design architect, Spanish Modernist Jose Rafael Moneo, determined such things as the height of the walls and the shape of the roof, “you couldn’t begin to put a price on it,” he said.

Two-thirds of the project cost, at $835 per square foot, will go for construction of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. The project also includes a three-level parking garage, a three-acre plaza, the cathedral office and conference center, and the cathedral residence.

Mahony said a cap of $102 million has been placed on the construction costs.

He declined to specify how much the archdiocese will pay the two architectural firms involved in the project, saying only that fees for Moneo will be about 4% to 6% of the project cost.

One unknown that could affect the amount the archdiocese must pay are the attorney fees that will be incurred in connection with a lawsuit filed in December by Vera Rocha, chief of the Shoshone Gabrielino nation, and the environmental organization Spirit of the Sage Council. The groups fear that the land chosen for the complex holds an ancient Native American burial ground.

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Attorneys for Rocha and the archdiocese will appear in court today, after her request for a temporary restraining order to block the project.

Craig Sherman, Rocha’s attorney, complained that she has been left out of the process.

John McNicholas, an attorney for the archdiocese, said he hopes that the matter can be worked out. But Rocha said in an interview Wednesday that she still hopes to get the cathedral moved elsewhere and compared the project to “building over Forest Lawn.”


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