The Great Church Property Flip: Florida Pastors Seek “Salvation” in Real Estate – as Membership Plummets, Church Leaders Are Looking for New Ways to Make Ends Meet. Some Congregants Say They’re Selling Out

In a gray sharkskin suit and aviator sunglasses, Pastor Christopher Benek stands on a patch of astroturf at the edge of the First Miami Presbyterian church parking lot. “Here’s the thing,” he says. “Right now this is a parking lot.”

A developer has a plan to make it much more than that, and Benek is buying in.

Benek was hired in 2018 as a “crisis-management specialist” to lead First Miami Presbyterian, the oldest congregation in the city, away from what seemed like impending ruin. The church has been a fixture in the community since 1896, peaking in membership at about 1,400 in the late 1980s before dwindling to 140 in the early aughts and continuing to decline.

“They’ve been a financial wreck for years,” Benek says. “Those problems don’t get solved overnight.”

With the church facing over $7m in back taxes, Benek has negotiated a potential deal to sell 2.2 acres of its 3.4 acre lot to a local developer for $240m. (Just four years ago, it was valued at $66m – a symptom of the rental market’s blistering recent inflation.) This last slice of undeveloped waterfront property in downtown Miami’s financial district has been coveted by developers for years.

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Source: the Guardian