U.S. houses of worship. “These churches were built
at a time and in an area where people walked to
church. Today, people drive to the church where
they feel most comfortable, which may not be the
neighborhood church, leaving lots of struggling,
near-empty city churches,” he says.
That was the case at Washington, D.C.’s Imani
Temple. As congregation members increasingly
moved out of the city, the church’s leadership
decided to build a new facility in the suburbs.
Morningstar Community Development purchased
the congregation’s historic building and sponsored
a project to convert it into six high-end residential
units, scheduled to be completed by the second
quarter of this year.
But such conversion projects face unique challenges. Shrinking congregations can be cash-strapped, meaning properties might have suffered
years of poor upkeep or delayed repairs. Neighborhood and historical preservation restrictions can
prohibit conversion to commercial spaces or limit
how much the exterior can be altered.
As houses of worship close across the U.S. due to
dwindling attendance, secular projects are popping up to transform them into condos, offices
and even hotels.
Church sales in the U.S. jumped by almost 100
percent between 2010 and 2015, according to real
estate data tracker CoStar Group. During roughly the
same time, Catholic parishes in the U.S. declined 4
percent from 2010 to 2016, according to Georgetown
University-affiliated Center for Applied Research in
the Apostolate. And the number of church redevelopment projects more than tripled. In Washington,
D.C., a project is underway to convert the former
First Church of Christ, Scientist, into a 226-bed
hotel. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, another project will transform the former First African Baptist
Church into condos and a day care facility.
The uptick in church conversion projects is
unlikely to slow anytime soon, especially in urban
areas, says Stephen Ferrandi, owner, PraiseBuild-