Converting churches to condos brings logistical, social challenges

Source: The Washington Post

By Amanda Abrams

It looks ancient, but the formidable stone church at 609 Maryland Ave. NE has, in its own way, kept up with the times.

Constructed in 1891, the Romanesque Revival building started as a Presbyterian church. But that congregation began to fade in the 1950s, and eventually another took over. And then another and another — none of them able to find their footing.

By 1994, when Imani Temple arrived, the building — just off Stanton Park in Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood — was in foreclosure. It wasn’t a perfect fit for the congregation, but the price was good.

Almost 20 years later, with the vast majority of its African American congregants now living outside the District, Imani Temple’s leader put the church on the market.

Morningstar Community Development bought it in 2015. “I always loved that church,” said Casey Klein, Morningstar’s managing partner and a longtime Capitol Hill resident. “I saw the [“for sale”] sign and called about it, and my partners and I immediately fell in love with it. We thought it’d be a really fantastic project.”

Today, the church is on track to become a condo building, joining dozens of others that have gone the same route in recent years.

For observers of Washington’s real estate scene, the trend has been impossible to miss: As churches’ congregations move to the suburbs and D.C. property values soar, increasing numbers of religious institutions are selling their properties in the city, usually with plans to move closer to their congregants.

Some of the churches are demolished, but those with architectural merit are often adapted by developers for new uses, usually residential.

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