Hello St. Paul’s,
It’s time for an update and refresher on our construction project. The origins of this project go back some 40 years, believe it or not, and perhaps further, as the cathedral was never formally completed according to the original design by Philip Frohman. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but here’s a refresher on what has happened in this century: in the early 2000’s the cathedral leadership discerned that there was a need for a plan to maximize the value of the cathedral’s land assets, which included the entire block between Nutmeg and Olive plus a parcel on the other side of Nutmeg.
In the Episcopal Church, church buildings are held in trust for the diocese, which in turn holds them in trust for the Episcopal Church writ large. So it’s no simple thing to sell or otherwise dispose of the real property of a parish church. In 2004 the Cathedral Chapter created a subsidiary company called Nutmeg and Olive LLC, to manage the development project, which was likely to include partnerships or sales involving other real estate entities. The LLC has five managers, the Dean plus four longstanding cathedral members with a history of parish leadership; managers have five year terms and there are no term limits. The Standing Committee of the diocese permitted Chapter to transfer ownership of two parcels of land to Nutmeg and Olive: this would make any negotiations with development partners much more straightforward and attractive.
Since the LLC’s formation there have been several ups and downs in this complicated process. In 2014, on my first day as Dean, we closed the sale of the parcel across Nutmeg Street, which allowed us to pay off a mortgage and put some money in the bank. Meanwhile the apartments at Park Chateau generated a steady rental income which was passed through to the cathedral’s general fund.
In 2016 we entered into negotiations to sell the land on our block to Greystar, and we closed on the sale in July 2019. The plan is for an elegant 20-story apartment building, with most of the first floor and part of the second floor owned by Nutmeg & Olive as a condo, along with 70 parking spaces underneath the building, all for the benefit of the cathedral. We will share the use of the courtyard with the apartment residents.
Greystar hasn’t wasted any time. Here’s what the site looks like today. The pandemic has slowed construction down hardly at all, and as of today they have almost completed construction of the five underground levels. The project created some temporary inconvenience for us: we had to move our offices to the Great Hall basement, we lost the Guild Room, 6th Avenue access and courtyard along with all our onsite parking, and until the Pandemic sent us all home we were living, working, and worshiping with noise and dust and occasional interruptions to utilities. But none of that was a surprise. There were some surprises as the costs of design and tenant improvements mounted, and we’ve had to make some adjustments to our expectations of future investment income.
Today we are just over a year away from the grand opening and the use of our beautiful new space. We will benefit in many ways from the parking, the landscaping, and the spacious, accessible, and LEED-certified home for our offices and program space. More challenges lie
ahead: we exchanged 5000 square feet for over 16,000 square feet. How will we furnish, equip, clean, and fill all that space with ministries? We’ve already decided to rent out a portion of it, and as I mentioned last week, a task force is working on a marketing plan for community use of our larger spaces. But we will all need to work together to make sure that we have all that we need for effective ministry in 2022 and beyond.
And don’t forget that we will still have our Great Hall basement as well as the undercroft of the chapel, available for expanded ministries. Chapter made a commitment to put Gala 150 proceeds towards redevelopment of the chapel undercroft as an outreach center, and we have every intention of creating a music center in the Great Hall basement, when appropriate resources become available, so that our musicians will no longer have to scramble among four different floors.
Thanks be to God for those who had the vision long ago to ensure that we would have these valuable resources, which will support our mission and ministry for decades to come. And thanks be to God for all of you, your faithfulness, commitment, and generosity that empower us to continue loving Christ, serving others, and welcoming all in this place.
See you on Sunday.
Your sister in Christ,