Struggling churches are finding developers seeking to build on their land may just be a savior. Bronx reporter Erin Clarke tells us about a trend that is keeping many houses of worship afloat and relevant in their communities.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection has been in the Bronx for decades.
But over the years as fewer people fill the pews, it's become difficult to maintain the the stately building where utility costs can be as much as $20,000 a year.
"This kind of building sometimes has come to be like a white elephant," said Rev. Franklin Simpson, Senior Pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church.
Church leaders are exploring selling the property, which includes a parking lot and unused space, to a developer.
"This part of the building we're going to keep, but then the whole building that goes all the way inside is going to be demolished."
Housing will be built in its place.
A new church and social space included in the building.
Reverend Simpson's church is just one of many throughout the city that is going through this process. A trend some believe started a couple of years back when developers started aggressively seeking out land outside of Manhattan.
"We're seeing it big time in the Bronx right now," Simpson said.
Renato Matos is a lawyer whose firm is educating churches that are being approached by developers or are looking to work with one.
He says a deal can be beneficial to both parties IF the church is informed and has advisers acting solely in its interest.
"I often say to the churches 'Would you go sell your home to the first person that knocked on your door and offered you money?'" asked Renato Matos, a partner in Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld. "You wouldn't. Market to all developers."
Matos suggests putting out a request for proposal and having developers bid on the project.
That's how Azimuth Development Group began working with churches four years ago.
"Most of these buildings are small buildings sitting on large pieces of property," said Guido Subotovsky, president of Azimuth Development Group. "We find a way to locate the church on an area of the property where we can allocate let' say a residential component or commercial component which would maximize the value."
Azimuth's president admits this development isn't the most lucrative, but a creative way for developers to build in places where space is at a premium and for churches to stay relevant as their communites grow and change.