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Posted originally by Jason Cherkis on City Desk.
In shocking news, DCist reports that Shiloh Baptist Church has decided to sell two of its boarded-up properties. The church plans to use the proceeds to fund redevelopment of its other vacants. DCist writes:
“The church membership voted last Wednesday to move forward with plans to sell its properties at 1600 8th Street NW and 1543 8th Street NW, with the hope that the sales will generate enough capital to begin long-discussed plans to renovate a string of units in the 1500 block of 9th Street NW. Plans for the Shiloh-owned 9th Street properties include a senior citizen center and/or housing, and a youth learning center.”
The church had long promised to do something with the buildings. At one point, Shiloh had formed its own Community Development Corp which developed…nothing. Years ago, the church actually proposed a skyway linking some of their buildings.
Recently, there were controversial accusations over the church’s budget which resulted in a lawsuit between long-time, active churchmembers and Shiloh’s pastor. This was no dissident group fighting a saintly pastor trying to do good. The group was formed by church members who had been attending Shiloh for more than 30 years. These were seniors invested in their church who were embarrassed that their place of worship had turned into a point of controversy for its neighbors. The church was once a central part of Shaw. The group did not like that it had become a pariah. A blog even started up devoted to the internal strife.
Shiloh’s pastor Rev. Smith sometimes used the pulpit to lash out at the dissidents. It was not pretty. The church opted to file one stall tactic after another in court.
All of this current mess could have been avoided if the church had accepted the offers from various nonprofits to help in the redevelopment of its properties. Each time, church brass rebuffed the nonprofits.
Alex Padro, the ANC Commissioner presiding over the area where all of the properties are located, tells City Desk:
“It certainly is encouraging that the members of the church have decided to get involved in these development issues…Perhaps that was needed to break the logjam. The trustees and the deacons had been unable to decide on a path to dispose of the properties or develop them. Of course it all remains to be seen if this is just another step in the long-and-tortured tale of Shiloh’s vacant and abandoned properties. We can only cross our fingers.”