Finance&Commerce — Leadership votes to sell church near University of Minnesota campus

Thanks to a loyal BJS reader for pointing us to another article on the sale which provides a bit more information. This was found on the Finance&Commerce website — “the only daily publication exclusively covering business in Minnesota”:


By Burl Gilyard

Pastor David Kind is opposed to plans to sell University Lutheran Chapel near the Dinkytown area in Minneapolis.
Doran mentioned as possible buyer

A church near the University of Minnesota campus is slated to be sold to make way for redevelopment, possibly for apartments. But the congregation at the University Lutheran Chapel is not going quietly.

Last Tuesday, the board of the Burnsville-based Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod voted to sell the church at 1101 University Ave. SE in Minneapolis for “the highest market price available but not less than a net price of $3.2 million.”

The recent talk has been that Bloomington-based Doran Cos., a prolific developer of student housing projects in the area, has pursued the site. As local developers chase new apartment projects, the area around the U of M campus has become a hot spot. Minnetonka-based Opus Development Corp. started construction in May on the 120-unit Stadium Village Flats, a $30 million project. Developer Curt Gunsbury recently completed the 75-unit Solhaus and is floating plans for another project in the area.

“I don’t believe they [Doran Cos.] have a deal at this point, but they are the ones who put an offer on the table before it was even up for sale,” said the Rev. David Kind, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel. “We were told that the plan was to tear down the church and build a 150-unit complex here. That’s what I was told.”

On Monday, Doran Cos. principal Kelly Doran and Jim LaValle, the company’s vice president of development, could not be reached for comment about the site.

University Lutheran Chapel, which has a congregation of about 125, was completed in 1950 and sits on a one-acre site at the corner of University Avenue Southeast and 11th Avenue Southeast, according to Kind.

Kind said that he received an email about the decision shortly after 5 a.m. the day after the vote by the Minnesota South District. “I waited all night for a phone call,” Kind said.

He characterized the relationship between University Lutheran Chapel and the Minnesota South District as “very rocky.” The internecine tension, he said, predates his 10-year tenure at the church. “It’s been a contentious relationship since I’ve been here and before that. It’s a relationship that I’ve worked hard to strengthen and repair.”

The website of the chapel has become a forum to advocate for saving the church. A message from Kind gives a sense of the emotional tenor: “May our Lord see us through the days ahead, grant us grace to move forward and to forgive, and may He have mercy on the souls of the leaders of the Minnesota South District.”

Representatives of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Kind acknowledges that there have been past discussions of selling the church, most recently in 2008 when the climate for any real estate deal was tough.

The resolution passed last week by the Minnesota South District calls for the district to retain a broker and outlines the goal of having a purchase agreement before the end of the year.

Doran Cos. just completed the 102-unit 412 Lofts project at 406 12th Ave. SE, which is a block away from the University Lutheran Chapel. Doran previously developed Sydney Hall and renovated the adjacent Dinkydome; combined, those buildings have 141 units.

Doran also has approval for another 60-unit project, Oak Street Apartments, on the site of the former Oak Street Cinema. Doran University III LLC recently paid $600,000 for the empty movie theater at 309 Oak St. SE in Minneapolis, according to a certificate of real estate value (CREV) filed in Hennepin County.

The University Lutheran Chapel has started a campaign to raise money to make an offer on the property, but Kind acknowledges an uphill battle.

“We are engaging in a national fundraising campaign to try to make an offer on the building. We were thinking more in the range of $1 million as a goal, based upon an appraisal of the property,” Kind said.

“It’s a lot of money. It’s going to take a miracle,” Kind said in reference to the $3.2 million minimum price tag.

Finance & Commerce recently reported about Augustana Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis, where the congregation is grappling with how to maintain a vintage building and a dwindling congregation, an increasingly common dilemma for urban churches.

Minneapolis-based developer Brighton Development took down a 1960s era church addition in south Minneapolis to make way for The Greenleaf, a 63-unit affordable housing project, now nearing completion. In a separate project, the historic 1904 church next door is being renovated.

Current listings on the Minnesota Commercial Association of Real Estate (MNCAR) database show several local churches for sale including Osseo Church of the Nazarene (priced at $1.7 million), the Miracle Lutheran Church at 3751 17th Ave. S. in Minneapolis ($1.75 million) and the Church of St. Philip at 2507 Bryant Ave. N. in Minneapolis ($1 million).

According to recent CREVs, the Mount Olivet Lutheran Church Endowment Fund recently paid $1.2 million for the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, at 1700 W. 50th St. in south Minneapolis, across the street from Mount Olivet’s church. In northeast Minneapolis, the House of Refuge Church of God in Christ paid $450,000 to buy 1600 Sixth St. NE from Northeast Community Lutheran Church.

Kind said that University Lutheran Chapel still has a healthy congregation. He is concerned about bulldozing a church to put up another apartment building.

“I do think that this will change the character of the neighborhood,” Kind said. “We are a healthy church. It’s not like it’s a failing ministry that is just sort of in its death throes.”

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