In March of 2013 a mutual friend connected me with John Waldbaum, a real estate broker and Temple Israel congregation member who was representing the Temple in their bid to sell their property at 7023 Cass Street. John walked me through the building, which was listed at $3,245,000, and discussed the congregation’s plans to move west. At the time we talked, the building was under contract to a developer (Campus Crest) who planned to demolish the building and build a college student housing project on the land. That plan had met fierce opposition from both the influential neighbors in the Fairacres neighborhood and from some of the members of Temple Israel who didn’t want to see the building razed.
Coram Deo’s leaders had toured the Temple Israel building once before, in 2012, and at that time it seemed beyond our needs and means. But by early 2013, we were beginning to think more strategically about our future, and the building merited a second look. In late March we hosted a member’s meeting in the Temple facility, and the members of Coram Deo voted overwhelmingly in favor of pursuing the property.
The campus housing development fell through. So we contacted our real estate broker and made our first written offer on March 29, 2013. In hindsight, though the offer was genuine, it was regrettably low. It was rejected. We made a second offer in May. That offer was closer to the mark, but still not competitive enough. Temple’s broker made clear that they were looking for an offer above $3 million and weren’t interested in deviating far from that number.
In September, we contracted a different broker and made a third offer of $2.7 million. We believed we were close to a final deal, and were eagerly awaiting a counter-offer from the seller. But rather than countering, they informed us that they had taken a competing offer from a developer (Bluestone) who planned to raze the building. We were utterly surprised and honestly a little upset at the lack of a counter-offer, which essentially cut us out of the negotiations.
Believing the door was closing on this opportunity, we turned our attention elsewhere. But as the word got out that Bluestone was planning a dense apartment complex on the site, neighbors began to contact us to discern whether we still had interest in the building. The answer, of course, is yes. As I told one of the neighborhood organizers last week, “We want this building, and we’re ready to spend what it takes to get it.” Our financial position as a church is stronger than it was last year, leaving us free to make the financial offer on the building that we perhaps should have made last year.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that the building isn’t available to us. Bluestone has the property under contract, and they’re asking the city to re-zone it. We’re seeking to make the case to both the development community and to the city that the highest and best use of this property is to preserve it as a place of worship. We’re convinced that this historic building shouldn’t be destroyed when a church like Coram Deo is willing to purchase it, occupy it, and preserve it.
Coram Deo is willing and able to compete financially with the developer’s offer on the property. We realize we missed our chance to do so last year – but then again, we believe the negotiation process ended before it should have. So we’re praying for another chance to meet the seller’s financial demands and save this property from demolition. Maybe God will give us that chance. Maybe he won’t. But we want the whole city to know that we’re here, waiting.