Restoration Revisited

Right on the heels of our discussion of St. Boniface reuses comes another, perhaps more realistic take on the subject.

From Project reader Sandra Keller:

I don't know if it's possible, but couldn't the "closed down" churches become homeless shelters or perhaps mental health/ substance abuse clinics?  Just a thought.  I'm not sure how those prospects work out financially, but bad area on some equals need for a homeless shelter.

As I mentioned previously, condos and apartments and fancy galleries are the provinces of areas on the rise. Not places like Fairhill. In fact, it's a challenge even in said areas on the rise. If Assumption BVM can't get turned into something — anything — in up-and-coming Spring Garden / West Poplar, what hope do worse off places have?

That's where Sandra's idea comes into play. If Fairhill and the like have no use for condos — and believe me, they don't — they certainly have use for subtance abuse centers, clinics and / or homeless outreaches.

While much more in line with the needs of poorer neighborhoods, this approach is fraught with its own problems. First and foremost, that the cost of buying, restoring and maintaining these churches makes them more suited for for-profit activities, not the kind of non-profit ownership that, frankly, couldn't keep the places operational in the first place.

The other argument is whether we want to encourage a glut such non-profits in a neighborhood. While useful to a certain extent, it can be argued that having too many of these kinds of places can both doom a neighborhood and / or stunt its recovery. Ask Frankford how much it really benefits from all of the clinics concentrated within its boundaries.

It's a complex problem. And as churches all over this city continue to fall, big and small, it will only get more pressing. We're well-served to continue to look for unorthodox solutions, even when the answers aren't immediately forthcoming.