St. Agnes says it's not acquiring Cardinal Gibbons

Hospital vice president says facility has all it needs on own campus

March 06, 2010|By By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

Officials at St. Agnes Hospital said Friday that they have no plans to acquire the Cardinal Gibbons School.

Rumors of the hospital's interest in the property resurfaced this week when Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien announced plans to close the high school at the end of the academic year. Cardinal Gibbons is the only high school among the 13 schools that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is planning to shut down in June.

"Our boys were sold out," Chris Schene, mother of a Cardinal Gibbons junior, said this week. "The archdiocese will deny it for years, but I guarantee St. Agnes will have the property."

Bill Greskovich, vice president of operations at the 307-bed hospital across Caton Avenue from Cardinal Gibbons, called the rumors "completely inaccurate and unfounded." He said Friday that the hospital has no plans to acquire any part of the 33-acre school campus.

"We do not anticipate any further expansion beyond the current footprint," he said.

St. Agnes is in the final phase of a $200 million expansion to be finished in about 18 months. Greskovich said the 120-bed tower, medical offices, operating rooms, cancer center expansion and parking garage the hospital is building on its 32-acre campus will provide all the facilities it needs.

The hospital has leased parking from the school during construction, but Greskovich said the arrangement will end once the new garage opens.

On Thursday, Bishop Denis J. Madden said there was "no foundation" to rumors that the archdiocese planned to sell or had already sold the Cardinal Gibbons property to St. Agnes. Archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said Friday that the archdiocese has not discussed selling the property with anyone.

Parents have demanded an explanation for the closing.

"If St. Agnes is not the reason, give us the reason," said Janine Fratantuono, mother of a senior and junior at the school. "Some things are just not adding up."

The four-story, gray stone building at the southeastern corner of Caton and Wilkens avenues, home to Cardinal Gibbons since its founding in 1962, sits atop a hill with a clear view of the downtown skyline. Blocks of rowhouses, many abandoned and boarded up, line Wilkens Avenue.

Neighbors of the school said they do not anticipate any adverse effect from the closing. Many said they expect to see a new occupant on the site soon.

"It is way too valuable a property to let it sit there delinquent," said Tom Muller, manager of a storage facility across Wilkens Avenue from the school. "On this corner, it is probably worth millions. I bet there will be 'for sale' signs up within a few weeks. Who knows? We might just get some business from there."

St. Agnes workers Donna Myer and Ruth Hinkley, taking a break outside the hospital Friday, said they would be sorry to see the school shuttered and jobs lost.

"It is an important part of this community and has been here for so long," Hinkley said.

Both women have heard rumors that the hospital might be interested in the school property.

"It would only be good business for St. Agnes to scarf up the property, if it becomes available," Myer said.

Greskovich said the hospital has enjoyed a long relationship with the school and is saddened at losing "a great neighbor."

"This is an emotional time for everyone," he said. "We were as surprised ... as anyone. We, too, are in a wait-and-see mode, wondering what is next."

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