Philadelphia Archdiocese auctions properties to offset debt

PHILADELPHIA - July 24, 2013

For developers, the old St. Michael Business School building on North 2nd Street in Kensington is a piece of property with great potential.

It sits just a few blocks from the red-hot, ever-redeveloping Northern Liberties neighborhood. And this is a church structure extremely well-built.

"Obviously it's dated, a little tired. But the other nice part is it has a great yard," said developer John Ciliberto.

The St. Michael building is one of multiple school buildings, convents and parcels of land sold off Wednesday by the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

It's part of an on-going effort to reduce church deficits. Wednesday's sales will mostly go to provide funds at the individual parish level.

The properties auctioned off are old, out-of-use buildings in the city parishes and enormous suburban land tracks. They had been on the market for some time. So the archdiocese decided to go a radically different way.

It turned to one of the nation's oldest auction teams to move the properties. Max Spann drew a large crowd of bidders.

The 2nd street building eventually sold for $330,000. As they say, it's all about location, location, location.

A nearly 30-acre parcel on Shelly Road in Harleysville went for $295,000.

A parcel in Abington Township went for $325,000, to a development firm with plans to build a mansion, then sell.

"We intend to put up a nice estate home for an individual who would love to live in that area," said builder Dipal Pandya.

The properties sold Wednesday hardly put a dent in the archdiocese's debt, but several parishes came out well.

"We made just a shade under $1 million in terms of the bids that came in on the properties today. But I have to stress that the properties that were sold were properties that belonged to parishes not to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia," said archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin.

Even with all the layoffs, program cuts and earlier real estate layoffs, the archdiocese remains in a deep financial hole.

Things look better in the short term. But in the long term, the picture remains grim.

The deficit for next year's operational costs are below $5 million now. But long-term debt and expenses top $350 million dollars

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