June 24, 2008

Cases in Point: Shuttered Churches Turn into Housing

In light of the Pew survive mentioned in the last update, a story in this morning's Worcester Telegram and Gazette caught my eye. There a growing industry here in converting closed-down churches into housing. OK, it's not exactly affordable housing in all cases, but at least it's doing something useful with the space.

Vision for old churches
Former worship spaces find many new uses


When Ellen T. Bonner looks at the First Lutheran Church in Gardner she sees more than a church.

"I see a big, beautiful home with an at-home business. It's not just different. It's also historical," said Ms. Bonner, owner of Liberty Way Real Estate in Gardner. "I'd take the bell out of the steeple and make a romantic cupola up there off the master bedroom."

Her agency has the 118-year-old, 6,700-square-foot former church on the market as a 14-room, seven-bedroom single-family home. The listed price has dropped from $399,900 to $300,000.

Ms. Bonner knows what she's doing. Last year, she and her partner, Shellie Hammond of Phillipston, bought the 30-by-80-foot First Church of Christ Scientist building in Athol after the price dropped to $60,000...

These two former churches that Ms. Bonner has been involved with are among a growing number of churches that have closed over the years because of dwindling congregations or building projects to gain more space for growing congregations, including a number of Catholic churches that have been closed by the Worcester Diocese...

On Broad Street in Marlboro, Alex Yarov and his partner, Stas Burdan, are transforming the former St. Mary's Catholic Church, rectory and school into 36 town homes. Eleven of the 15 units in the first phase have sold. Owners will begin moving in next month. The town homes go for $199,900 for 1,100 square feet to $289,900 for 2,400 square feet...
I'm glad that the architecture and accouterments of these former churches are being preserved when the buildings are converted. I like the look of stained glass and towers; every habitation would have them in my ideal world. They add color and character to a neighborhood. Gothic cathedrals rank among the most beautiful structures ever conceived by humanity. When the day finally comes when St. Peter's in Rome is turned into townhouses, too, I hope they'll keep the exterior as is.

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