We confess that we don’t make our way up to Mount Airy or Chestnut Hill on the regular, but given that these areas are seeing some interesting and relevant projects at the moment, we might need to up our game in the northwestern section of town. Today, we are pleased to pass along news of a project that appears to be complete, and represents one of the more unique offerings we’ve seen. The congregation of the Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church has worshipped at 7111 Germantown Ave. since 1883 and built their sanctuary in 1901. Over time, their membership grew and so did their needs, so they built additional facilities at the property, including classroom and office space.

You know this is an old photo because it's in black and white
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The church sanctuary, as seen from Germantown Ave.

Unfortunately for this congregation, they haven’t been immune to the tribulations of countless other churches in town. Their membership declined and their upkeep costs continued to rise, making it untenable for them to continue to function in their historic home. Usually this is the kind of situation where the old church sells their building and either disbands or moves to a new location and then there’s a big demolition fight. But the story is a bit different here. In this case, developer Ken Weinstein did indeed purchase the old church in 2014, but the congregation has remained. As part of their agreement with the developer, the sanctuary received much needed repairs and the church continues to worship there, leasing out the space.

While the church continues to enjoy the use of their historic home in the sanctuary, the developer partnered with Bancroft Green and took possession of the rest of the property with an eye toward a condo conversion. The two story building next to the sanctuary has received an addition and the green space on Germantown Avenue has turned into a surface parking lot, servicing 19 units. Many of the units include original details, but possess modern designs, with all the finishes you’d come to expect in a luxury development built today. As we said, these units are being offered as condos, with 1-bedroom units starting at $400K and a 3-bedroom unit currently listed for just under $1.1M. At this time, three of the units have sold and at least four more are under contract.

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View on Germantown after construction started
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Old view on Mt. Pleasant
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Current view on Germantown
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Current view on Mt. Pleasant

It’s depressing how infrequently we say this, but this project is truly the best of all possible worlds when considering the alternatives. The church, which has been here for over a century, gets to stick around, and in an improved facility. Their historic home stays, and will remain intact for many years into the future. The remaining buildings on the site have been preserved, cleaned up, and built up a bit, in a way that maintains their historic appearance while getting a contemporary glow-up. And the neighborhood gets a different kind of housing stock than the typical new construction home, which a story in the Chestnut Hill Local indicates is a niche market for people already living in the area who are looking to downsize.

In all, this project is a win for the congregation, for historic architecture, for Germantown Avenue, for the neighborhood, and of course, for us as well. We got a scone from Baker Street out of the deal, so truly all is well with the world.