Of the eight church properties listed in an auction by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 24, seven attracted bids that archdiocesan officials had hoped they would.
“We got our asking price on all of them,” said Deacon Thomas Croke, director for real estate services of the archdiocesan Office for Property Services.
One of the properties, a 48-acre tract of rural land on Wismer Road in Plumstead Township, Bucks County, yielded the hoped-for price of $860,000 even before the auction, which was held at the Sheraton City Center hotel in Philadelphia.
The archdiocesan property had been leased by a farmer for 40 years, Deacon Croke explained. He said that as a result of “exposure to the process,” or preparation for the auction, the farmer made an acceptable offer and the property was withdrawn from the auction. Final negotiations for the sale are ongoing.
The only other archdiocesan property, a 29.5-acre tract in Harleysville, Montgomery County, did not move at the auction and remains for sale. Max Spann Real Estate, the firm that ran the auction, was optimistic a buyer could be found soon.
Other properties offered at the auction were owned by parishes, which keep separate financial books from the archdiocese. They were grouped with the archdiocesan effort in order to attract potential bidders more effectively. They include:
St. Bartholomew Convent, 5500 Harbison Avenue, Philadelphia, bid for $280,000;
St. Michael Business School, 1504-1506 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, bid for $363,000;
Our Lady of Hope Convent (Tioga), 3531-3535 North 19th Street, Philadelphia, bid for $118,000;
A one-acre plot of St. Hilary Parish, Mill Road Circle, Rydal, bid for $357,500;
And two properties on the campus of All Saints Parish in the city’s Bridesburg section (the school and convent, at 4623 and 4629-4635 East Thompson Street, respectively), did not receive an acceptable bid at auction, but negotiations with one of the bidders are continuing, Deacon Croke said.
He deemed the auction, which he called an experiment in trying to sell off church properties in an efficient manner, a success. Some of the properties had remained unsold for years.
“The properties are finally starting to move,” Deacon Croke said. “Folks are starting to get an interest in our properties.”
He attributed the renewed interest in church property to a generally improving housing market, after several years of stagnation due to the economic recession that began in 2007.
Another reason is better internal organization, with respect to real estate, in the archdiocese.
Deacon Croke noted the archdiocesan Real Estate Advisory Committee, which has been in existence about a year and a half, is providing guidance and direction. He also credited James Bock and his staff’s efforts in the archdiocesan Secretariat for Temporal Services to better organize the work of property management for the church.
Since last week’s auction was successful, another such offering is likely to occur in the future.
Deacon Croke indicated 83 other parish properties and approximately 20 archdiocesan tracts remain available for lease or sale.