Some people consider their homes a sanctuary, but for several New York City condominiums, that can be taken literally.
As churches look to expand or simply keep their doors open, the leaders of some congregations have been working with real estate developers to maximize a valuable asset — New York City real estate.
Azimuth Development Group is constructing a 22-unit building designed by Aufgang Architects in Harlem on land that it purchased from St. Luke Baptist Church and two adjacent properties that held since-demolished brownstones, with plans to lease back 12,500 square feet of space to the church.
“Churches need room for growth, but need to put themselves in a position so that they can thrive,” says Guido Subotovsky, president of Azimuth Development Group.
Construction of 99 Morningside is expected to be completed this summer and the church is currently holding services in a temporary space nearby.
Subotovsky says that working with the church owners has been rewarding, but the process is much more complex than a regular new development.
“A lot of care and planning goes into these things because we have to be sensitive to the fact that this is not just a transaction to them,” Subotovsky says. “It’s very personal.”
Stephen Kliegerman, the president of Terra Development Marketing, Halstead Property Development Marketing and Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing, who has represented church conversion properties, says they’ve been on the upswing over the last several years as developable land becomes scarce.
Working with the churches can be a win-win for those involved.
“The neighborhood is happy because they’re keeping something they thought they’d lose
and the church is happy because they’re getting a new facility,” Kliegerman says.
At 10 Lenox Ave., also in Harlem, developer Level One Holdings is constructing a 27-unit condo designed by Issac & Stern Architects and making room for Second Canaan Baptist Church, which had been in the former theater since 1965, on the ground floor.
Church properties throughout the city have sold to developers, and some are incorporating the historic architecture.
On the Upper East Side, a new 11-unit condo from the Extell Development Company sits on the former site of the annex to the Park Avenue Christian Church, which will use the lower levels of the new building for meeting and event space. A four-bedroom here is on the market for $18.5 million.
On West 20th Street in Chelsea, the Brodsky Organization constructed one building and converted a more than 175-year-old building, formerly owned by the General Theological Seminary, into a 21-unit condo with interiors by architect Alan Wanzenberg. The penthouse there sold in 2014 for more than $12 million.