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Deals & Dealmakers

Task force answers church prayers

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer has formed a task force composed of faith leaders, nonprofit housing developers, and historic preservationists to develop resources to help churches, synagogues, and mosques better manage their real estate challenges.

The task force builds on the work her office has been doing since 2017 in hosting or co-hosting workshops and seminars for members of local religious institutions who are facing the crosscurrents of the real estate boom and their congregations’ often more modest financial means.

The task force will conduct public hearings on the issue on November 25 and January 14.

“In formalizing our outreach to religious institutions, we hope to develop approaches for them utilize as they navigate the often rocky terrain of real estate development in Manhattan,” Brewer said.

“By identifying potential strategies that allow them to use their real estate value in a responsible way, we can enhance their mission and our neighborhoods in a win-win way.”

According to Josh Lipton, co-founder, Invictus Property Advisors, churches and their congregations are disappearing and it’s not always certain they are getting their fair share of the economics when they decide to sell.

In 2015, one Harlem church in complete disrepair, sold to a large developer with the aim of demolishing and rebuilding a new structure. The sale price represented $50 a buildable square feet (arguably a 75 percent discount to market rate for similar sites at that time).

Last year, a church in a prime Upper Manhattan location sold for $190 buildable square foot, (a 25 percent discount to market).

Said Lipton, “Money isn’t the only thing as they say, but it certainly matters and churches would do right to reach out to local experts before mistakenly disposing of their assets for far too little.”

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