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Last week, a Morning Links post featured an old church on Maryland Avenue NE that had recently gone up for sale. It’s apparently still being used by Faith Bible Church, but realtor Nick Deoudes says the building’s in bad condition, and probably shouldn’t be saved. The land is being offered at $3.2 million, and Deoudes is looking for a developer to come along (like Ben Miller recently did with the Autozone site on H Street NE) and develop it as something else.
But houses of worship aren’t like other real estate. They’re holy sites, at least in the minds of their parishioners, and selling one isn’t just like flipping a condo. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed several churches around the city with sale signs out front, and heard anecdotally that shrinking congregations have left the tremendous amount of real estate controlled by religious institutions somewhat underused.
Some churches—both healthy and not—have started to put their excess land back into circulation as affordable housing, or sold the rights to developers. Other congregations are growing by leaps and bounds, and have grand real estate plans to accommodate their own expansions. What we haven’t yet seen is a fantastic adaptive reuse of a church building, like what’s happening at the Limelight in New York City. Could the church on Maryland Avenue be such an opportunity for H Street, like Joe Englert suggested?
Anyway, I’m going to be exploring these issues in more depth in a future column—if you’ve noticed churches on the market, or have other insights or leads, please holler: email@example.com.