Village of St. John to open

Cathedral of Saint John (left) is now partially housing for senior citizen, as is the new construction seen on the right

A Civil War - era church in Wilmington is now dedicated to affordable senior citizen housing.

Several of the new units feature stained glass windows as part of the decor.

The opening of The Village of St. John was celebrated Thursday as invited guests toured the one- and two-room units and marveled at the preserved architectural features accompanied by new construction at the formerly-vacated church

"It took a village to build The Village of St. John," Ministry of Caring Deputy Director of Administration Chaz Enerio said.

According to Ministry of Caring Founder and Executive Director Brother Ronald Giannone, $23 million were invested into the project which contains a total of 53 units.

"We wanted to preserve the sacredness of the building by creating affordable, dignified housing," Brother Ronald said.

Tax credits related to historic preservation and low-income housing, numerous grants and support from state and local governments helped to make the project possible.

"We received overwhelming support from the government and private foundations and corporations," Brother Ronald added.

The Cathedral of St. John was built at the former site of a notorious bar. Alexis I. du Pont was said to be concerned about the impact of the establishment on the nearby Brandywine Village neighborhood. Architects were reportedly directed to place the alter on the exact site of the former tavern.

The cathedral closed in 2012. Ministry of Caring became involved with the property three years later through a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Wilmington.

State Senator Harris McDowell (D- Wilmington) said the Village does more than address an immediate need for senior housing.

"It also opens the door to the future to this neighborhood being a much more vital neighborhood than it's been able to be," McDowell said.

"It's such a great project because it's such a unique structure and to build a new facility and save all of this, it's just amazing," former Wilmington Mayor and current Village of St. John board member James Baker said.

The first residents will start moving in next month.