We stopped dead in our tracks earlier today as we passed by the 17th & Bainbridge intersection and spotted a demolition notice on the front door of the New Light Beulah Baptist Church on the northwest corner. According to a publication from the Preservation Alliance, the building was originally constructed around 1870 as the First Church of the Covenanters Presbyterian Church, but we have to think the building looked very different back then. Clearly, the stucco on the facade is a relatively new feature for the building. Nevertheless, the edifice still provides the area with a dose or architectural diversity.
Despite the fact that the building dates back almost 150 years, it’s not designated on the local historic register. As a result, the developers, who paid $2.15M for the property a few months ago, were able to pull a demolition permit with little pomp or circumstance. This drives home a point we’ve made before, that the Historical Commission needs additional funding to proactively designate older buildings in desirable neighborhoods to protect them from just this kind of situation. Already, this neighborhood has lost old churches at 20th & Fitzwater, 19th & Fitzwater, and 19th & Catharine, just thinking about the last few years. And now it’s fait accompli that it will lose another church.
So what’s coming next? Honestly, we don’t know. The parcel measures about 6,000 sqft and is zoned for multi-family use, so there are several directions that the developers can go with this property. Five or six homes with rear access parking could certainly work here, and each home would probably sell for over $1M. Alternately, the developers could opt for a condo building with maybe a dozen units, which would also be permitted by right. Or maybe a row of duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes? Any of those concepts would seem like they would work financially for the developers, and would avoid the aggravation and risk of going through the zoning process. Whatever ultimately ends up happening here though, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be a big architectural step down from the status quo. A bummer indeed.