The Real Deal Miami

Miami church faces $7.1M property tax bill for leasing space to a for-profit school

Lawsuits filed by the First Presbyterian Church of Miami allege that the county property appraiser targeted the church because of its valuable property along Biscayne Bay
December 16, 2018 02:00PM

(Credit: iStock)

The First Presbyterian Church of Miami faces a $7.1 million tax bill because the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser claims the church forfeited its religious exemption by leasing part of its property to a for-profit school.

Attorneys for First Presbyterian Church filed two lawsuits alleging the county property appraiser has challenged the church’s religious exemption from property tax because of the high assessed value of its property.

The church is located on a 3.4-acre waterfront parcel at 609 Brickell Avenue. The county property appraiser assessed the 2018 value of the church property at $66.3 million and estimated its market value at $85 million.

The church’s parking lot along Biscayne Bay, which measures almost two acres, is zoned for a building as tall as 48 stories.

The church’s $7.1 million property tax bill includes a current bill of $509,526 for 2018 and $6.5 million, including interest and fines, for the years from 2009 to 2017.

Florida Statute 196.196 allows exemptions from property tax if a property is used mainly for charitable, literary, religious or scientific purposes.

The church has leased part of its property for Key Point Christian Academy since 2008. The school is operated by a five-year-old company called International School of Brickell LLC.

According to the website of Private School Review, Key Point Christian Academy has 45 teachers and 178 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and annual tuition ranges from $15,850 to $16,185.

A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser said the appraiser’s investigation of the church started after an anonymous tip was submitted via the county’s website.

Founded in 1896, the First Presbyterian Church of Miami is the city’s oldest organized congregation. Industrialist Henry Flagler paid for construction of the church at its original location, the corner of Flagler Street and Southeast Third Avenue in Miami.

The church was built at its current location on Brickell Avenue in 1949 with some of the original stained-glass windows and pews. In 2003, the municipal government of Miami designated the church as a historic site, which prevents demolition or relocation of the building. [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth