Converting a church to residential use?

streetcore

Inspired Forum Member
Registered
I'm curious if anyone here has any experience converting a church, a school, or other building that is zoned for institutional use to residential/commercial use? I'm not talking about the physical conversion, but the issues related to rezoning, financing, etc.

This is total blue-sky thinking for me right now, but I've had my eye on a nice old church with a newer addition that came on the market recently. The price seems very reasonable considering it's almost 5000 square feet and it's in the same price range as residential properties I've been looking at. It's also much, much cheaper than any commercial buildings I've seen, even those with much less square footage. Unfortuately, the listing says any other use would require a zoning change.

I've always dreamed of owning a mixed use property like this (not necessarily a church) where I could live, work, and indulge my diverse vocations, hobbies, and interests including photography, woodworking, furniture making, as well as an event space for workshops, music, exhibitions, etc, etc.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or opinions.

Cheers,

Andy
 
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Thomas Beyer

Senior Forum Member
REIN Member
Talk to the city. Rezoning is usually VERY difficult in cities, and requires significant upfront investment of time and money for plans, neighborhood consultation and CACs, once approved.

Heritage buildings and churches are usually even more difficult to convert, unless an eyesore and a very open city council to change.

A nice hobby for retirees with loads of time and cash to burn, or as a philanthropic venture.

Do not attempt as a business model.

For mixed housing, try this in Vancouver, for example: https://pricetags.wordpress.com/201...ances-pilot-affordable-home-ownership-program

Or buy an old warehouse. Many cities have ares where they allow commercial and residential in one building, or even encourage it. Start there. Then, once you are a multi-millionaire, attempt to convert a church or heritage building.
 

streetcore

Inspired Forum Member
Registered
A nice hobby for retirees with loads of time and cash to burn, or as a philanthropic venture...

Or buy an old warehouse. Many cities have ares where they allow commercial and residential in one building, or even encourage it. Start there. Then, once you are a multi-millionaire, attempt to convert a church or heritage building.

Thanks Thomas. I kind of figured it would be a good way to burn through wads of cash, and I'm definitely not in a position to do that. I've been looking at warehouses and commercial buildings too, but they are all much more expensive than this church. That's the only reason I gave it more than a passing thought.

Cheers.
 

Thomas Beyer

Senior Forum Member
REIN Member
In a small town with too many churches you may find a willing cooperating council to rezone a church. So ask, please.


In most cities you can't touch them.
 

Matt Crowley

Senior Forum Member
REIN Member
Check out the Mezzo in Edmonton for an idea of how difficult it can be to rezone churches, especially with heritage designation: http://edmontonjournal.com/business...roves-16-storey-mezzo-tower-near-whyte-avenue

This 16 story apartment got approved on city heritage church lands (Augustana Church) in Old Strathcona, one block south of Whyte Avenue. This developer is quite visionary and full credit to him for getting it approved. Few in the development community thought it would pass. But to the developer's credit, he did everything right.

As far as church / hospital conversions, sure they can be done. But they are a lot more difficult than you may initially think, even for seasoned pros (http://edmontonjournal.com/business...start-on-former-edmonton-hospital-and-eyesore).

Redeveloping an old building as your first development is not a very good idea. Yes, rezoning is achievable and we do it often. But for someone with no development experience or industry connections it is nearly impossible. City council is well aware of land speculators buying a parcel, up-zoning it, and trying to flip the property for a profit. That isn't a legal reason to stop someone from rezoning and selling their own property but a developer's reputation (or lack of one) will heavily influence a council's decision.

It is a cool idea. The way you could do this is if you have $1 million - $1.5 million cash you would go out and put an offer on the site. Then you would find a professional developer and hire them on a fee basis to look at how to redevelop the site. You will spend $50,000 before you even own the site.
 

EmeryVargas

New Forum Member
Registered
Isn't it a bit odd to live in a building which used to be a church? I couldn't imagine myself living in a place which used to be a church in the past, I would feel guilty that I am staying on that holy land. For me, church is a place where you go and clear your mind and spirit, alongside with other Disciples of Jesus Christ, where you can feel the connection to god and that this life does have a meaning. The meaning is to do good things only, stay positive, spread the love of God to other people, because god loves us all.
 
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