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St. Patrick's Cathedral revamp on way

Pedestrians and visitors pass near a huge scaffolding

Pedestrians and visitors pass near a huge scaffolding set up on the facade of St. Patrick's Cathedral Friday in Manhattan. The Cathedral will embark on a multi-million dollar renovation of the 133-year-old Fifth Avenue edifice. (March 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is formally announcing a major renovation of St. Patrick's Cathedral at a brief Saturday morning news conference outside the Fifth Avenue landmark.

The 8:15 a.m. announcement precedes the traditional Mass celebrated the morning of the St. Patrick's Day Parade up Fifth Avenue, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

The New York Archdiocese has in the past put the cost of the renovations at $175 million, but officials on Friday would not confirm that estimate or comment on the work that will be done on the church, which opened in 1879 after a sporadic, two-decade construction that was interrupted by the Civil War and a shortage of funds.

"We're not making any comment until tomorrow," Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese spokesman, said Friday.

Scaffolding is already in place around the church, and the cardinal told reporters in Rome last month when he was elevated from archbishop that the renovations would be more than cosmetic.

"We literally get two or three buckets of stones every day that have fallen," he told The New York Times last month in Rome. "We are talking about safety, security, a new roof, leaks, those precious stain [sic] glass windows that are rattling." A Times story in October said the archdiocese put the cost of the work at $175 million.

About 400 families are members of the parish in the heart of midtown, but the archdiocese estimates that it draws more than 3 million visitors a year.

The first major renovation of the structure was begun in 1927 to mark the 50th anniversary of its dedication. The interior of the cathedral was again restored in 1972, and another exterior renovation was completed in 1979.

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