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Salem Lutheran Church site sold for $4.65 million

Second time in nine years property has changed hands

BAY RIDGE — A Bay Ridge property that housed Salem Lutheran Church for many years has been sold for $4.65 million to the Eastern Buddhist Association in a real estate transaction that marked the second time in nine years the property has been put on the market, the Home Reporter has learned.

The Eastern Buddhist Association purchased the property at 450 67th St. from the previous owners, Saint Matthew’s Church, according to Victor Weinberger, the real estate agent who brokered the sale for RE/MAX. The closing took place earlier this month.

St. Matthew Church bought the 11,915-square-foot property, which includes a church, parsonage and auditorium, from Salem Lutheran Church in 2010 for $2.65 million. Weinberger also handled that real estate deal.

It is unusual for a religious institution to change hands twice in less than a decade, but Weinberger said St. Matthew Church wanted to sell so that church leaders could concentrate on other areas of the country. “Saint Matthew sold the church because their main churches are in California and Texas,” he told the Home Reporter in an email.

St. Matthew Church put a great deal of work into the site, spending nearly $3 million on extensive renovations of the three-story church building, including roof repairs, the installation of imported golden plated cathedral-style leafs, a new heating system and plumbing upgrades. The auditorium was renovated, along with the library and the church offices.

The Eastern Buddhist Association, a religious organization based in lower Manhattan, plans to establish a Buddhist temple at the site, according to Weinberger. The association could not be reached for comment.

Victoria Hofmo, founder of Bay Ridge Conservancy, said she was relieved to hear that the new owners will have a religious presence at the site. “I think it’s fantastic,” she told the Home Reporter. “It’s good to know that the church building is being preserved.”

Hofmo, whose group fights to preserve noteworthy buildings in the neighborhood, said churches are worth saving. “Some of the most beautiful architecture we have in Bay Ridge can be found in our religious institutions,” she said.

Salem Lutheran Church, whose members held Sunday services at the site for 65 years, had a history of opening its doors to the larger community, according to Hofmo. “I remember there was a Girl Scout troop. And the Swedish Folk Dancing Society was there,” she said.

The church property was on Community Board 10’s radar, according to District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who said the board often takes a close look at so-called “soft sites,” buildings that city zoning laws allow to be converted to other uses.

“The board is proactive. The community needs senior housing and schools, and the board is always looking for possible sites,” she said.

Beckmann said the 67th Street church property, situated across the street from Leif Ericson Park, “is a beautiful building that is in a great location.”

The fate of churches in the neighborhood has been an issue for more than a decade.

Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, which was located at 7002 Fourth Avenue for nearly 100 years until the congregation sold the property in 2008, was controversially demolished by a developer. Then, when the bottom fell out of the housing market, the site was sold by the developer to the city for use as a school, P.S./I.S. 30. The church was known to generations of Bay Ridge residents as the “Green Church” due to its serpentine stone exterior.

The architects designing the school incorporated the church’s clock tower into the design of the school building.

Salam Arabic Lutheran Church on Ovington Avenue, down the block from the Green Church site, was also demolished, in 2012, and housing was built on the location.

Another area church, St. John’s Episcopal Church on Fort Hamilton Parkway near Marine Avenue, has been on the market since 2014, after closing because the shrinking congregation could not sustain its use. An effort to landmark the structure has so far been unsuccessful.

Additional reporting by Helen Klein

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