ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Demolition has begun at a historic church in St. Paul.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports an excavator began demolishing the former St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in the Como Park neighborhood about noon Tuesday.

Tom Koppy, 80, who was baptized at St. Andrew’s, told the newspaper that the demolition saddened him, “but the time to protest was when the archdiocese decided to sell the church” to the school in 2011.

“I hate to see it come down,” he said. “But, being practical, I can’t see how the school would be able to maintain it.”

Neighbors and preservationists had fought the demolition. But those who wanted to save the 92-year-old church were unable to provide a $1.9 million bond to the Twin Cities German Immersion School, or have it waived. The school owns the church and is razing it to build a new addition.

School officials say it could take the rest of the week to finish demolition.

“It’s sad to see something, such a pretty building have to make some space for the next thing, but we have to be doing the best we can for our kids and our students to give them the spaces they need to learn in,” Ted Anderson, the school’s executive director, told MPR radio as he stood on the sidewalk in front of the church steps.

Retired priest Father John Forliti grew up in the neighborhood and celebrated his first Mass at St. Andrew’s in 1962.

He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the church was “part of my family’s soul.”

“The time to heal has begun,” Forliti said. “Our neighborhood is too precious to do anything other than heal.”

Crux staff contributed to this report.

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