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Christian Brothers retirement facility to be built on St. Michael’s campus

February 5, 2019

Times change at St. Michael’s High School.

Until 1967, it was located downtown in the Lamy Building, across from what are now The Pink Adobe and Rio Chama Steakhouse restaurants. A year later, it went co-ed after being an all-boys school for more than a century.

That wasn’t all. During that era, St. Michael’s moved to Siringo and Botulph roads, with the new school featuring a 20,189-square-foot Christian Brothers Residence, where all the teachers — members of the Brothers of the Christian Schools religious order — lived at the east edge of campus.

Through the years, fewer active teachers lived in the facility, and only 13 retired brothers are still there (though a couple still turn up in a classroom).

There was just one problem, however. The residence is unsuitable for retirees.

“This was built for full-time teachers who were younger, healthier,” said Brother Victor Kenneth, director of the brothers’ community.

With that in mind, the De La Salle Institute, which oversees St. Michael’s, has decided to build a new retirement facility that will serve the retired Christian Brothers.

The institute will fund the project, and the new residence will be built on campus about 120 feet east of the old residence building, which will be demolished.

The new residence will sit on a portion of that landscape now dotted with juniper, piñon, a statue of St. Joseph, an old, spinning wind meter (likely a hobby of a brother in the past, St. Michael’s President Taylor Gantt reckoned) and a small shed. About half of the natural habitat will remain, and the site of the current living quarters will be landscaped in a similar manner.

“I’ve never been up here,” Kenneth said during a recent visit to the site. “This is beautiful.”

The site measures about 2.3 acres, said Colleen Gavin, partner at JenkinsGavin, a Santa Fe land use and project management company serving as the project manager. The project will be presented Tuesday night before the Santa Fe Board of Adjustment to tweak the R-1 residential zoning for the school to R-1 with a special use as a group residential care facility, Gavin said.

St. Michael’s agreed to keep the new structure at the same size or smaller than the old residence to simplify the zoning process and avoid a full rezoning process, Gavin said.

This will enable construction to get started sooner — possibly as soon as late spring — with an opening 12 to 16 months after groundbreaking, Gantt said.

Times may change at St. Michael’s, but don’t expect modern décor at the new Christian Brothers Residence. The brothers intend to re-create the familiar ambience in place in the existing living and dining areas.

But the new structure will have the features of a residential care facility: medical examination rooms, storage space for medical supplies, wider doorways and hallways, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and an exercise/therapy room.

Gantt and the brothers view this upgrade in the new residence to be as pivotal for St. Michael’s as the move to Siringo Road was back in the ’60s.

But the school’s history goes back much further, of course.

The Brothers of the Christian Schools, an order of educators with no priests, was established in France in the 17th century by St. John Baptist de La Salle and has had a prominent presence in Santa Fe since 1859.

The De La Salle Institute decided to convert the St. Michael’s residence to one of its three facilities designated specifically for retired brothers. The other two retirement homes are in Napa, Calif., where the institute is headquartered, and Covington, La.

“It’s pivotal because De La Salle is making a tangible commitment to the brothers here,” Kenneth said. “It’s a massive investment in the future.”

Gantt didn’t have an estimated construction cost other than it will likely fall between $175 to $225 per square foot for about 20,000 square feet or less.

“My observation from being around the brothers for 13 years,” Gantt said, “is they have always been asked to do more with less. This facility [the old residential structure] represents doing more with less. [The new home] gives you a nice place to finish your life comfortably.”

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