Churches in the United States: Redevelopment Research
To have a broad understanding of churches and their real estate assets. An ideal response would include examples (case studies) of where churches have been redeveloped and the organizations that are advising churches and non-profits on what to do with their real estate assets. These redeveloping uses should be ones that serve the church's mission. Some ideas are retail, music venue, multi-family, senior living, affordable housing and contemporary worship. These uses can be public or private.
- Wonder only uses publicly available sources available to everyone without a membership. The request to use resources like ULI and others
like it cannot be honored as we do not have access to them.
- "The Arlington Presbyterian Church in Virginia was dealing with declining Sunday attendance, and fewer donations, before deciding to turn to an affordable housing developer for help. In 2016, with membership down to about 60 from a height of 1,000 in the 1950s, the church sold its century-old sanctuary to the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). The developer razed the church and built a seven-story, 173-unit affordable complex in its place, allowing the congregation to escape increasing costs while fulfilling an obligation to care for the poor. Today, the church leases space on the ground floor of the building to serve its congregants."
- "In California, a state with one of the country’s largest homeless populations, about 38,800 acres of land are owned by religious institutions and have development potential, according to a UC Berkeley study published in May 2020 by University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. Religious institutions own more than 9,000 acres of land in San Diego and Los Angeles counties alone, according to the study."
- "In Colorado, Denver’s St. Francis Apartments development, a 50-unit affordable complex that opened in 2018 after St. John’s Cathedral leased an underused parking lot it owned to a nonprofit developer. The building houses formerly homeless people in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, meeting the religious mission of the congregation that it neighbors while satisfying affordable-housing advocates who see big surface parking lots as barriers to overcoming homelessness."
- YIGBY is assisting the Bethel A.M.E. church in San Diego, the city’s oldest African American church, to convert property it owns into 16 one-bedroom apartments for homeless seniors and veterans using funding from philanthropists and the Self-Help Federal Credit Union. Bethel AME’s pastor called the project a fulfillment of the church’s intrinsic mission.
- "Many churches sit on attractive real estate in urban areas that are gentrifying and where supply is low. Brooklyn, for example, is home to more than 80 Catholic parishes. In 2011, a 142-year-old Brooklyn church was sold to a developer who turned it into 40 luxury apartments. In Manhattan, some three dozen religious institutions were razed or redeveloped between 2013 and 2018, many of which became luxury buildings, according to the New York Times. This is an example of Catholic leaders abandoning affordability in their housing missions."
- "Accounting for all the parishes, schools and other properties that fall under its jurisdiction, the Archdiocese of New York City is believed to be Manhattan’s largest landowner. Amid the city’s real estate boom, the Catholic Church has over the years become a powerful player in the industry, cashing in on the sale of its properties to luxury housing developers and even hiring a lobbying firm to influence East Midtown’s rezoning, which unlocked an estimated 1.1 million square feet of air rights at St. Patrick’s Cathedral potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
- "The development machinations of Trinity Church, the Episcopal parish whose New York real estate assets are valued at $6 billion, are well-chronicled thanks to a 2013 lawsuit by parishioners that forced the church to make its financial records public. But unlike Trinity, the Catholic Church is not obligated to reveal its land holdings. At minimum, since 2012 there have been at least eight church sales or land leases totaling $145.7 million, according to research compiled for a New York University project."
- "In early May 2018, the Bayonne Planning Board unanimously approved an application to redevelop the site of former St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Cathedral. The developers, PRC Group owners Robert M. Kaye and Angelo Del Russo, are building two six-story residential buildings on the grounds of the church and the accompanying parking lot on the other side of Avenue E. The plan is to construct one building where the parking lot is first, then construct the second building across the street where the church stood. The two structures will boast 162 total rental housing units. The project has been given the name “City Line” by PRC Group."
Organizations that are Advising Churches
- "In addition to zoning issues, churches can face other obstacles when trying to build housing on land they own. Affordable development funded through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, a major source of financing for subsidized housing, tends to be for medium- to large-scale developments. That’s too big for some faith institutions, according to the Berkeley study. Developers of affordable housing have had to find ways to fit more housing on single parcels as land costs have increased; larger buildings allow them to account for those costs." That is where YIGBY (Yes, In God's Back Yard) can step in to help churches navigate those financial complexities. YIGBY seeks to “establish a different species of affordable housing and construction finance to expedite and economize production of high quality, eco-friendly basic housing as infrastructure for vulnerable populations,” The group plans to use low-interest loans through Self-Help Federal Credit Union and donations from philanthropists.
Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals
- Our initial hour of research was spent scanning to ensure that there was publicly available data surrounding the research questions, and then providing some salient information, data, and statistics surrounding the ask to set the table for future research.
- As discussed at the top of this document, Wonder only uses publicly available sources available to everyone without a membership. The request to use resources like ULI and others
like it cannot be honored as we do not have access to them. However, there should be enough publicly available sources to address the questions asked. We can also provide links to any paid sources that we do locate that might address parts of the research question. If that is desirable, that would clearly have to be communicated to us in any reply.
- We noted that the word "Church" was used, which seems to include any kind of religion, but then we also noted the use of the words " Catholic church". Please be clear with us as to what the focus should be by providing direction in the response to any research selected. Unless that is indicated, we will go broad.
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Proposed next steps:
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