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Condo conversions gone crazy, targeting churches

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 4, 2008 | 1:13 pm

Formerly St. Theresa Church (Boston Globe)

I seem to have missed this ongoing story of churches in big cities being sold and converted into luxury condos. As far as I know, this phenomenon has not made its way to Los Angeles, where condo conversions were once going bonkers and have shriveled since the declines of the economy and housing market.

Kind of adds new meaning to what Mendell Thompson, president and CEO of America’s Christian Credit Union, told me last fall: “We don’t have the house of the Lord in sub-prime loans.”

I can understand the market for luxury condos with the beautiful architecture of a traditional parish, though i wonder if that appeal would wear off overtime. And, of course, there are some bigger-than-this-world considerations for a developer to close escrow on a shuttered church.

This article from the Boston Globe takes a look at the religious implications of renovating a holy place for secular usage, and it’s apparent some developers suffer from a bit of that good, old-fashioned Catholic guilt.

Karnig Ostayan asked his Armenian pastor to bless the former St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Watertown, before turning the church and rectory into 11 upscale condos.

“I want to sleep at night,” joked Ostayan, who attends St. James Armenian Apostolic Church, across Mt. Auburn Street. “Seriously, I know how much this church meant to people.”

Many a neighborhood church has gone condo. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston shuttered 65 parishes since instituting a sweeping parish consolidation in 2004. At least 30 properties have since been sold, many to developers eager to turn an old church into trendy housing, even in a declining real estate market.

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