Bala Cynwyd Church Does Not Rule Out “Purchase Leaseback”

Yesterday Property reported that the beautiful Bala Cynwyd United Methodist Church on Levering Mill Road was for sale. Narberth real estate agency Duffy Real Estate Inc. is listing the property for $1,500,000. Today we talked about the church buildings with Michael Duffy.

He said that the church is for sale because the size of its congregation has declined. In addition to exploring any and all options with respect to its building, the members of the congregation are also looking into various options as to where and with whom they will be worshiping.

An ideal scenario from the congregation’s point of view, according to Duffy, would be to find a buyer who would be willing to lease the sanctuary back to the congregation. Duffy also said that the church “would not rule out” the possibility of keeping the sanctuary and only selling the education building.

As is usually the case, the zoning issues will probably add some complications to the potenital sale.

Here’s how Duffy has the property listed:

A unique opportunity awaits with this single entity sale of three parcels 312 and 314 W. Levering Mill Rd & 207 Ford Rd in Bala Cynwyd. 312 W. Levering Mill (Tax ID 40-00-32044-001) consists of a parking lot of .10 acres with approximately 16 parking spaces and is zoned C-2. 207 Ford Rd.(Tax ID 40-00-18584-006) is an adjacent parking lot of .19 acres and approximately 20 spaces. The main church and education building (Tax ID 40-00-32040-005) is of gothic architecture, zoned R4 and comprises .75 acres

In other words, the church’s buildings are zoned residential and its two parking lots are zoned commercial. The 36 parking spaces could very likely become part of “the discussion,” as they are adjacent to a bustling (but parking-starved) Montgomery Avenue commercial block which has been anchored by Hymie’s Delicatessen since the mid-1950s. (It really was started by a guy named Hymie.) More recently the strip has become much more of a foodies’ destination with the addition of Town Hall Coffee and the high-end kosher restaurant Citron and Rose.

Liz Rogan, president of Lower Merion’s board of commissioners, clarified a few things about the zoning at the church site. If another religious institution occupied the property, then “it would not involve any development” and it could practically move right in without having to jump through very much in the way of administrative hoops. “Another possibility, one which I would be very sad to see,” said Rogan, “would be that a developer could buy the property and knock it down to build single family homes.”