The Church Transformation Trend in Louisville

Published by Jason Ferris on

The Church Transformation Trend In Louisville

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - St Paul German Evangelical Church

A review of the sharp increase in repurposed church properties over the last few years.

Our commercial appraisal firm has appraised plenty of existing churches and proposed churches over the years. However, one trend we are seeing is the increase in requests to appraise former church properties for some adaptive reuse. That got me thinking about the correlation between declining church membership and the increase in sales of church properties for another use.

According to Jeffrey Jones, with Gallup, in his article “US Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades”, only half of Americans are now members of churches, a decrease from 70% in 1999 to 50% by 2018. Generally, church membership was steady from the 1930’s to the 1970’s between 71% and 76%. However, by the 1980’s, membership started slipping into the 60% range. By 2013, the membership percentage had dropped into the 50% to 53% range. It is noted that attendance and membership are virtually identical in terms of percentage of Americans.

In my research, the number of annual church closings was all over the place. One website quoted 6,000 to 10,000 church closures per year, another 4,500 per year. Then, of course, how many new churches are added each year? A few “experts” have also supported a figure of 5,000 church closures per year and 1,000 new church plants per year. That’s a net loss of 4,000 churches per year. But, locally, we can just look around Louisville and see a large number of old churches closing and very few new churches being built, which is my anecdotal evidence.

The big questions for appraisers is what to do with these properties? How do we appraise these properties? If all of the sales of churches are for a different use, then what do I do with an appraisal for an existing church with stable membership? What do I do with a church with declining membership? These are the questions your appraiser should be asking you if you hire them to appraise a church.

For our own entertainment, we compiled a list of Louisville church properties that we found that have been repurposed from churches to other uses.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Calvary Lutheran Church

1838 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY

This property was converted from a church and school building built in 1927 into Sanctuary on Bardstown, a 9-unit loft-style apartment building and restaurant space. It is located on Bardstown Road in the Highlands at Roanoke Avenue.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Unitarian Church

1034 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY

The former Unitarian Church built in 1905 was converted into Holy Grale, a restaurant and beer taproom. It is located between Baxter and Bardstown Road in the Highlands, across from Hepburn Ave.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Middletown Methodist Church

11700 Main Street
Middletown, KY

This former church was converted into the Jefferson County Circuit Court DMV office. It is at “main” and “main” in old Middletown south of Shelbyville Road.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Third Lutheran Church

1860-1864 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY

Mo Deljoo, a local broker and developer, bought this property and converted it to convert to offices. The property is located in Clifton across from the Kentucky School for the Blind campus.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - St Paul German Evangelical Church

213 E Broadway
Louisville, KY

The Lazlo Group has applied for a permit to convert the property to an 11-story hotel with extended stay apartments. The property is at the eastern boundary of the CBD where Smoketown, Phoenix Hill and Old Louisville meet. This is near the hospital district at Preston Street and Jackson Street.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Quentin Road Bible Church

10408 Watterson Trail
Louisville, KY

This property was the Old Jeffersontown Moose Lodge since the 1990’s. It was a small community church before that built in 1878, but no information was available. The property was purchased to be converted into 3rd Turn Brewery. It is located along Watterson Trail at Taylorsville Road.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Market Street United Methodist Church

600 E Market Street
Louisville, KY

This property in the Nulu neighborhood was built in the 1870’s to be converted to an entertainment complex called ChurchKey, a themed restaurant, bar and event venue. The property once housed Refuge in Kentucky Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith. (aka 207 S Hancock St).

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Edenside Christian Church

1415 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY

Breland and Reinhart purchased this property with plans to convert it to co-working office space, which was somewhat unheard of in 2014. Since then, the property has been converted and tenants have begun to occupy the property. The property is located in the Highlands along Bardstown Road at Edenside Ave near Eastern Parkway.

Church Transformation Trend In Louisville - Episcopal Methodist Church

801 E Main Street
Louisville, KY

Susan Pullen-Swope purchased the former Victorian-style church that was built sometime around 1898 to convert to an event venue space for weddings and gatherings. It is a National Historic Landmark, but had been vacant prior to Swope’s purchase. It is located in Nulu at East Main Street and Shelby Street.

These church transformation properties are difficult to appraise. Most of these properties have come across our office when the banks bid out the appraisals. Some we turned down, some we didn’t.

In conclusion, it takes an experienced commercial appraiser familiar with churches and church conversions to determine an appropriate market value. If you have a similar property, or are just a giant real estate nerd like us and want to discuss the ins and outs of appraisals, give us a call.