The long decline of Philadelphia's once-powerful Roman Catholic church has raised the question of what's the best use for its empty former church-school-convent-rectory complexes, especially in the recovering neighborhoods around Center City.
Some (like St. Agatha's on 39th St. in West Philly) are suited for apartments. But others, including the big but hastily-built mid-1800s missionary complexes, need millions in repairs, and find few likely buyers, other than developers who'd like to knock the old structures flat, over the objection of Philadelphia historical preservationists.
The former Catholic Church of the Assumption at 11th and Spring Garden Streets is for sale, along with its neighboring former school and residence, after the nonprofit Siloam AIDS ministry found it was unable to win city approval to demolish the angular, worn stone-and-plaster temple over opposition from the Callowhill Neighborhood Association. (See photos here.)
Siloam has hired James Scott and Michael Barmash of brokerage Colliers International to find a buyer. The group is selling "with great sadness," said interim Siloam boss Cathy Maguire. Siloam had hoped to build an HIV/AIDS service center there. She hopes to raise around $1.7 million.
Historical preservationist Andrew Palewski, who helped the successful push to have Assumption historically listed, in part because Catholic Saints Bishop John Neumann and Mother Katharine Drexel ministered there in the mid-1800s, told me he's pleased Siloam is selling instead of knocking the hall down.