Catholic cultural center to be sold to Knights of Columbus

A local cultural center that bears the name of Pope John Paul II is being sold after years of struggling to attract visitors.

For years, the building in northeast D.C. near Catholic University has struggled to recoup millions in investments. Now a group called the Knights of Columbus plans to purchase it.

The Catholic museum and interfaith think tank with ongoing events and exhibit opened with great fanfare ten years ago. The museum’s location down Harewood Road from the basilica is not convenient for visitors and installing a shuttle bus didn't work.

“The attendance projections were too high and the financial projections -- 9/11 hit when there were still construction loans out. It just overwhelmed a new organization,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokesperson for the foundation who runs the center. The group tried to sell the center for years. The last buyers fell through.

Today, the center is weathered by the elements and remains largely silent, open to the public only by appointment.

“It was very empty the day that we were there, but we enjoyed it so much,” said Julie Fortier of Crownsville, Md.

The Knights of Columbus are buying the center for $22.7 million. The group also funded the nearby basilica's bell tower and the mosaic incarnation dome inside.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called this “a new day.”

He said the group hopes to add a museum to northern American Catholic heritage. If the late pope is declared a saint by the church, which is probably, the group hopes that will bring more attention to their museum. They believe that with the right marketing, the crowds that have been so elusive will finally show up.