In November of 2015, eight months before St. John XXIII came into existence, the St. Mary’s school and convent property was put up for sale. At that time, the school was being used primarily as the Port Catholic pre/elementary school campus, and the convent served primarily as the St. Mary’s parish office. The asking price for these two buildings, along with a garage east of the convent and parking lot north of the school was $995,000.
Roughly one year later, we entertained our first offer from Commonwealth, a company interested in converting the school and convent into affordable housing. The price offered was $400,000 but included the creation of a parking lot west of the church at an estimated cost of $200,000. We weren’t crazy about that idea nor the minimum wait of one year to see if the federal grant money needed to fund this project could be secured. Consequently, we did not act on the offer in hopes a better one would come along.
In December of 2016, the Ansay Real Estate Development Corporation began to express interest in the St. Mary’s school and convent property, and three months later made a $625,000 offer to purchase for the purpose of converting the school and convent into market rate apartments. With the understanding that St. John XXIII (which came into existence in July of 2016) would need to maintain parking access comparable to what was in place at that time, we accepted Ansay’s offer.
From March of 2017 through the summer of 2019, we worked diligently with Ansay to help advance the redevelopment project they had in mind by coming to mutually agreeable parking arrangements, helping them secure a sequence of City of Port Washington approvals including access to TIF funding, and supporting Ansay’s pursuit of construction cost credits by having the convent and school designated as National Register of Historic Places (as is the case for St. Mary’s church).
By mid-August of 2019, as our Gather & Grow building expansion and renovation project was nearing completion, we moved the St. Mary’s pre/elementary school and all other non-church parish operations to our St. Peter’s campus, leaving both the school and convent buildings dormant. Anticipating closing on the sale of these properties to Ansay by the end of September, the timing of this transition was nearly ideal. As the closing date drew nearer, however, Ansay informed us they were terminating their offer having concluded the corresponding redevelopment project was unaffordable.
Confronted with this stunning turn of events, we decided to remarket the school and convent property at the reduced asking price of $695,000. Later in the fall of 2019, we began a conversation with another prospective buyer who was interested in converting the St. Mary’s school and convent into an assisted living facility. By February of this year, we came to terms on a $595,000 offer to purchase even though it was laden with contingencies, as we didn’t have any other options to consider at that time. With an 18 month to closing timeline, we made it through the first of multiple contingency phases, but as the pandemic wore on, it became clear to the buyer that his assisted living project was no longer viable.
As an alternative to redeveloping the school, this buyer looked into having it demolished and replaced with residential housing. But, in connection with environmental assessment work we had done, we discovered that the cost of that demolition would be at least $400,000. Consequently, the buyer offered to purchase the St. Mary’s school and convent for $1.00, asserting somewhat persuasively that this giveaway price was justified in light of his alternative plan for the site.
Before considering this option further, we decided to take one last shot at selling the property in question at the “bargain basement” price of $199,000. Knowing there were multiple local parties who were interested in the convent alone, our hope was that at this price one of them would be willing to take ownership of the school as well. This strategy proved fruitful, with roughly a half dozen parties showing serious interest, and four presenting firm offers. Among these, two emerged as being most attractive, with one being local and another coming from an historic building renovation company based in Madison. While both were offering acceptable terms, we concluded that the offer put forth by the local buyer was preferred.
On December 4, more than five years after we put the St. Mary’s school and convent property up for sale, we sold it to AngelRight, a partnership between St. John XXIII parishioners John Weinrich and Michael Enright. We were pleased to sell to AngelRight as they exceeded our asking price by $21,000 and were entirely considerate and accommodating of our other sale contingencies, with parking access for St. Mary’s church use at the top of that list.
When we embarked on this sale effort, we were surely hoping to secure a purchase price greater than $220,000. But, having made our way through this challenging saga, we’re happy to know the property we’ve sold is in good hands and will be developed in ways that are entirely respectful of the St. Mary’s church neighborhood. Moreover, we are greatly relieved to no longer carry the utility and insurance costs of two buildings that have been sitting idle and becoming all the more a maintenance liability for the past 16 months. In addition, the net proceeds from the sale (better than $209,000), in combination with ongoing Gather & Grow contributions, will enable us to reset our Gather & Grow mortgage from $1.8 to $1.5 million, lowering our principal and interest payments from roughly $8,800 to $7,300, a $1,500 per month savings.
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this long-awaited parish property sale, please address them to Pastoral Coordinator Bill Henkle by phone (262-284-4266 ext. 1418) or email ([email protected]).