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St. Thomas’ New Church Building Plan May be Scrapped

On September 24th, following an analysis of its building campaign progress and projecting costs into the out years, it was announced that this project that had been in the planning and implementing stages for the past five years might no longer be pursued at this time. (For background, see, “Dupont Circle’s St. Thomas’ Parish Planning to Build Anew,” InTowner, March 2010, PDF page 1.)

In their letter announcing the decision, Rector Nancy Lee Jose and Senior Warden John Johnson presented, among other information,  the following explanation:

”The Building Committee updated the feasibility study to include increased costs for maintenance, utilities, property management, insurance and mortgage payments on an anticipated $500,000 loan needed to fully fund our building costs. These increased costs will require, of course, increased funding from parishioners.

”Our original feasibility study included a 12% growth rate after completing the new building. At this rate, the study shows we will be able to start covering our costs in 2018, requiring $330,000 to continue full operations in the meantime. What we have learned from the Diocese since our original feasibility study in 2010 is that no churches in the last 25 years have shown significant growth since completion of a building project and that (as a result) the Diocesan Finance Committee does not consider growth rates in feasibility projections.

”As such, our Building Committee re-ran our feasibility study with a 6% growth rate (more modest, but still significant), finding that it will take $1,144,000 in additional capital to fund our operations between now and 2028 when we would break even under the model’s assumptions. These assumptions do not include any increase to clergy, administrative or program costs even as our parish grows over time.

”Based on these assumptions, the Building Committee issued a memo to the vestry on September 8 stating that in their opinion “to continue the present plan is untenable.

”To clarify this point, it was asked at our September 23rd Parish meeting if the plan we’ve been working toward for the past five years is effectively off the table. The answer is yes.

”However, in their report, the Building Committee offers the suggestion that we consider partnering with a developer to re-develop our entire campus (parking lot, park and land occupied by our current building). This option was not available to consider when we started our efforts in 2008 because of the real estate market crash.”

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