In the depths of an historic economic recession, it was a big one.
The school now has more than $33 million in commitments, enough to give Darcy's successor, the Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades, the confidence to OK a groundbreaking ceremony for June 10.
Although they're about $2.5 million short, school board president Matt Edmonds said he is very confident the rest will materialize.
Edmonds said the recession has posed a challenge for fundraising, but also an opportunity, in that contractors have bid lower prices because they need the work.
School leaders have set another ambitious goal: have the school finished and ready for students in about 14 months, in time for the start of fall 2012 classes.
"It will take a lot of coordination," Edmonds said. "The construction manager we're dealing with, Skillman, understands the dates we have to hit. We're very confident in their ability to coordinate everything."
"Moving forward now will limit maintenance expenses on the current 58-year-old school to just one school year," Principal Susan Richter has noted.
Edmonds' optimism could partly stem from the positive experience the school had with Brandenburg, the demolition contractor that quickly tore down the vacated Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.
"The firm left the site's topography graded to the specifications the school needed. It left intact a chain-link site security fence when it finished the job."
When it tore up Cedar Street to demolish some old tunnels, Brandenburg called the school and asked whether it wanted to install water taps right then. Otherwise, the school would have had to tear up the street again to install the taps, costing money and time.
"It was unbelievable how they cooperated with us," Edmonds said. "It was really left in a state for us to begin construction."
One potential obstacle lies in the Family Dollar store located on the site's southern edge. Mayor Stephen Luecke wants to spend $1 million in tax increment financing district money to buy and demolish the building, and then give it to the school.
But South Bend Common Council president Derek Dieter, among other council members, has voiced opposition, saying that money should come from the school rather than the city.
Luecke will defend that and other capital project requests for this year at a special council committee meeting Monday.
The mayor has justified the expense by saying the new school will benefit the neighborhood and downtown.
Edmonds added that the school would grant the city an easement along LaSalle Avenue, where the store stands, allowing the city to install a new sewer line it has planned. The city would need to buy the Family Dollar store regardless of the school project, Edmonds said.
Edmonds declined to say what will happen to the current school site, at Angela Boulevard and Indiana 933, after St. Joseph's leaves it. But he said news on that could come next week.
Staff writer Jeff Parrott: