How Aging Urban Churches Can Be Saved

Churchgoing in Washington, D.C. is on the decline, and neighborhood churches are finding it hard to pay the bills. One solution is to go mixed-use and share space with new development.

1 minute read

May 16, 2017, 5:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Emmett Tullos / Flickr

Church attendance isn't what it once was in central Washington, D.C. Dan Reed writes: "Once upon a time, congregations could anchor neighborhoods, but nowadays they can feel like a void. Because many are open just a few hours a week for Saturday and Sunday services and the occasional weeknight meeting, nearby sidewalks are empty because nobody has a reason to stop in."

That can make neighborhoods with a lot of churches seem more dangerous for pedestrians, dampening prospects for development. Reed cites a recent example of how an old church partnered with housing developers to build a combined structure. The building looks pretty unconventional, but the arrangement may let churches stay open.

"Congregations get a space that fits their current needs as well as the money to take care of it while carrying out their mission. Developers snag sought-after building sites plus a sympathetic partner able to win over abutters who may fight new construction in their back yard."

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