The entire campus of the Salem Lutheran Church has been sold for $2,650,000 to a new congregation that plans to renovate and reuse the complex — saving it from the fate of Bay Ridge’s beloved “Green Church,” which was demolished two years ago.
The sale of the church, on 67th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, which closed last year, is considered as a victory by Bay Ridge preservationists, who are glad to see the structure saved.
“The first and best option was to keep the church solvent,” said Victoria Hofmo, the founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy, who has advocated repeatedly for the preservation of the area’s historic buildings. “The second is for another church to come in.”
And it was certainly better than one of the alternatives: demolition.
“To have a developer come in and possibly knock it down, that’s not what we want,” Hofmo stressed. “Churches are part of the fabric of the community, so we never want to lose a religious institution.”
That’s what happened to the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church — known as the Green Church because of the color of the stone — which stood at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues for more than a century until 2008 when it was demolished by the congregation, which sold the property to a developer for $9.75 million at the height of the housing boom, to make way for luxury condos that were never built.
That site was subsequently sold to the city, which is building a new public school there.
The new occupant of the church will be St. Matthew’s Church, an international congregation with a presence in Los Angeles, Chicago and Texas, according to realtor Victor Weinberger, of RE/MAX, who brokered the deal.
“They wanted a New York City location and they felt this would be a great home for them here,” Weinberger said.
The original asking price was $3 million, Weinberger said, which includes the sanctuary, parsonage, a combination auditorium-gymnasium, and a garage.
It will be a while before the new congregation moves in, because they are renovating the property, Weinberger said. St. Matthew’s is committing more than $1 million to getting the sanctuary and other structures in shape, he added.
“They are looking to make it beautiful,” Weinberger stressed, contending, “It is going to be a tremendous asset to the community. They are fixing it so it can be there for many, many more generations.”
Salem Lutheran Church already has a long history. The congregation dated to 1904, and services had been held at the 67th Street property since 1945. In recent years, the number of worshippers had dwindled to a couple of dozen. But, in its heyday, the church was one of the pillars of the thriving Scandinavian community that flourished in southwestern Brooklyn.