While the parishioners of St Rosalie are split up between St Priscilla , St Francis Borgia and possibly, St. Pascal’s , and the parishioners of Divine Savior are sent to Our Lady Mother of the Church the Chicago Archdiocese will be splitting up the financial proceeds between themselves, and the handpicked real estate brokers and developers. Years of history and memories will be lost on balance sheets. And in the case of St Rosalie, Ridgemoor Country Club and there members will be profiting as well.
Will St Marie Goretti property be sold for a residential development and St. Beatrice become the sole Schiller Park Church ? Will St Gertrude be sold and demolished due to its deteriorating condition and the parishioners disbursed to neighboring parishes ?
As the U.S. real-estate markets have recovered, the sale of religious property has turned into a brisk business. Last year, there were 1,506 sales of religious facilities, compared with 1,366 in 2013 and 874 sales in 2010, according to CoStar Group Inc. More than 80% of such sales tracked by real-estate services firm CBRE Group Inc. were in or near cities.
But the decline in traditional demand for many houses of worship also has alarmed preservationists. In some cases, properties have been lost during bad real-estate markets or periods of migration out of urban areas. Since 1970, Manhattan has lost 45 architecturally or historically significant religious sites, according to Ann-Isabel Friedman, director of the Sacred Sites program of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
For example, this year a developer completed demolition of Brooklyn’s Church of the Redeemer, a Gothic-style Episcopal Church that was built just after the Civil War. The developer, who purchased the property in the hot Barclays Center area, hasn’t yet announced plans for the site.
The Catholic Archdiocese of several cities have been selling property. In New York, the Archdiocese has been reducing its number of parishes to 296 from 368. As part of this effort, St. Augustine church in the Bronx was sold to build affordable housing and Holy Trinity parish in Yonkers was sold to an Eastern Rite Catholic community known as the Malankara Catholics.
In Chicago, the Archdiocese will continue to eye its real estate as a funding source and to repay debt, Ms. Bohlen Archdiocesan COO said. As a very large institution with very old infrastructure and very illiquid assets, we’re constantly looking for how to make sure we have the liquidity to fund our church.”
Real-estate experts say the best use of the site across the street from Holy Name Cathedral would be a mix of residential, hotel and retail. Stephen Livaditis, a senior managing director at Eastdil, is spearheading the sales effort, according to an Archidiocese spokeswoman.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has tapped an adviser to sell the sprawling lot across the street from its 140-year-old Holy Name Cathedral, in the latest sign of a religious institution selling prime real estate in response to hot property markets.
The Archdiocese has hired Eastdil Secured LLC to market the site, which takes up most of a block, according to Betsy Bohlen, the former McKinsey & Co. partner who became the Archdiocese’s chief operating officer last year. She declined to put a value on the property, but experts say it is worth as much as $100 million.
Ms. Bohlen said Eastdil would be exploring options including an outright sale of the property and a long-term lease. “There’s been an interest in this property for decades,” she said in an interview. “Given the strength of the market and increased development in downtown Chicago, we decided to take a hard look at developing the property now.”
Chicago’s real-estate market has enjoyed a flurry of development thanks in part to an increase in demand for apartments in the city. According to the city Building Department, there are currently 23 tower cranes operating on construction sites, four more than last year and 13 more than in 2011.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that developer 601W Cos. has closed its purchase of Chicago’s old Post Office building, part of a $500 million redevelopment plan for that long-vacant structure in the West Loop.
At the same time, the move by the Archdiocese to sell the 90,000-square- foot site near the city’s Gold Coast historic district comes as many religious organizations are taking fresh, and more businesslike, approaches to their real estate.
“As chief operating officer of the Archdiocese with a business background, there’s no doubt my job is to focus on how we make sure we’re the best steward of our assets,” Ms. Bohlen said.
Religious groups are re-examining their uses of real estate in part because attendance at houses of worship has been shrinking in some areas. In 2014, about 54 million Americans older than 14 years old—or 21% of that population—attended church on an average Sunday, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s American Time Use Survey. That’s down from 24% of the population—or about 57 million people—in 2003.
Suburban Chicago archdiocesan real estate is very attractive because most of those properties have no historical or architectural significance; developers and archdiocese representatives are quite excited to repurpose parish properties.
Real estate brokers and developers expect large profit margins on choice parish properties.