The Real Deal Miami

More churches change hands in development deals

U.S. sales of religiously affiliated properties totaled 1,502 in 2014, up from 889 in 2013

October 11, 2015 10:00AM

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Former Christian Science church in Miami (Credit: Wikipedia)

A developer plans to build a multilevel grocery store atop First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 256 NE 19 St. in Miami.

More churches are changing hands, often in deals that lead to redevelopments of religiously affiliated properties.

A record 1,502 properties with religious affiliations were sold in 2014, up from 889 in 2013, according to CoStar Group Inc. a commercial real estate data-gathering firm.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the dollar volume of such deals grew to $1.3 billion in 2014, more than double the level of $578.9 million in 2010.

Recently, for example, the Collegiate Churches of New York announced a partnership with a private developer to put up a mixed-use building in Manhattan on land next to the landmark Marble Collegiate Church, which formerly owned the land.

The building will be 64 stories tall and will include not only condo unitsand retail stores but also administrative and programming space for the congregation of Marble Collegiate Church.

More churches are working with developers to build better church facilities, said Casey Kemper, executive vice president of Collegiate Churches, which has five citywide ministries and four churches.

“They get cash and they get a better facility,” Kemper told the Wall Street Journal.

He also said as more people move into cities, many churches are positioned to benefit because “those religious properties that are well-located in urban areas are attractive to developers.”

The trend is illustrated by the August sale of St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn for $8.8 million. The new owner plans to retain the existing structure of the church, built in 1894, and to develop apartments and townhouses on the site.

“If I can maintain the feeling of history, I will be able to sell it at better prices and faster,” said Boaz Gilad, co-owner of the new owner of St. Luke’s, New York-based Brookland Capital LLC, which has acquired five churches since the spring of 2014. [Wall Street Journal] — Mike Seemuth