We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The Paulist Fathers didn’t sell out because they needed to move out. Or because their property had peaked in value. Or because a buyer offered up a too-generous-to-reject price for the land.

They sold out because they couldn’t field a team anymore.

The Paulists are a group of priests that focuses on evangelism, church reconciliation, and fostering on-campus Catholicism by stationing their priests at universities across the country.

But when not serving God, they’re sportsmen, and that’s where the real estate comes in.

Since 1913, the Paulist Fathers have owned a sizable tract of land in Brookland, home to their seminary, Saint Paul’s College, and right up the road from Catholic University.

And over the years, their campus was converted into a variety of fields. By the 1970s, basketball courts, tennis courts, a baseball field, and a football field were constructed.

“When we had 70 to 90 students, we had a lot of intramural sports programs,” says the Rev. John Behnke, head priest at Saint Paul’s College. These days though, the seminary does not have 70 to 90 students. It has six seminarians and three novices (first-year seminarians). Matriculation numbers started to decline “when everyone else’s did,” says Behnke, “in the ’70s.”

For the last decade, the Paulists have been trying to figure out what to do with their excess land—they have 20 acres total. For awhile, they considered building offices and renting them out to local nonprofits. But when that plan fell through, they decided to go with a more traditionally D.C. approach.

Roughly two years ago, the fathers agreed to sell 10.2 acres to Bethesda-based developer EYA. The group will build 237 town houses on the land, 28 of which will be affordable housing (14 units for people making within 50 percent of the area median income; 14 units for people making 80 percent of the median income).

The sale should be finalized in 2010, says Behnke, who would not reveal the purchase price. EYA’s approved planned unit development was recently published in the
D.C. Register.

Jack Lester of EYA says his group expects to break ground on the first phase of development roughly within a year. The entire community should take six to seven years to finish, though it will be smaller than EYA’s Capitol Quarter project in Southeast.

The homes in Brookland will be priced between $450,000 and $550,000 and will range from 1,400 to 2,200 square feet.

The row houses will predominantly be brick to blend in with the older surrounding Brookland homes, says Lester, though there will be a few exceptions. “We included a few homes with stone elevations to transition from the Saint Paul’s College building to the neighborhood.”

This story is a follow-up to a previous post I wrote. The piece has been edited since its original publishing. It will appear in this week’s newspaper.