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The challenges of turning churches into condos

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/23/16

It’s happening more and more and The Washington Post takes a closer look at just what entails:

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. …Church conversions are occurring around the country. According to the CoStar Group, which tracks real estate data nationwide, church sales in the United States jumped by almost 100 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the number of church redevelopment projects more than tripled during that time. In D.C., the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs received 31 applications to change buildings from a place of worship to something else in 2014 and 2015. The most obvious challenge in converting a church is the building’s layout. Religious structures tend to be built around a sanctuary: a huge room with high ceilings and, often, big windows. “In order to get housing into a volume like that, you need to put new floors into that structure, and you have to coordinate with the big windows,” said Scott Matties, a principal architect with Cunningham Quill who has been observing church conversions in Washington. “It can be done, but it’s definitely a challenge.” Developer Andrew Rubin, who is turning Capitol Hill’s Way of the Cross Church into a 26-unit condo building called the Sanctuary, concurs. Figuring out how to work with a space that had a balcony and an upper mezzanine — which eventually became the second and third floors in the new units — was a long process. Ditto with the Gothic Revival building’s abundant stained-glass windows. But in the end, Rubin said, the windows became “the centerpiece of the whole thing.” He wound up sending them to Pennsylvania craftsmen who took the stained-glass panels apart, cleaned them and reassembled them. The windows will have a few clear pieces for visibility, and many will be designed to open.

Read on.

And for some examples of what this looks like, check out this gallery.

Photo: Realtor.com

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