Diocese Boosts Effort to Sell Buildings, Land

By William Cone
Pittsburgh Catholic
January 13, 2012

Potential buyers urged to make inquiries

The Diocese of Pittsburgh is continuing its efforts to market and sell unused church-owned buildings and vacant land.

Diocesan leaders recognize that vacant buildings can place a significant financial burden on parishes while creating issues related to safety, liability and aesthetics.

A typical parish has a church building, a rectory, possibly a convent and a school. Because of changes in demographics and associated parish mergers, some of those buildings are no longer being used. More parishes are realizing that unused buildings can be sold and help pay for other needs.

Diocesan officials have spent the past several months collecting and organizing data relative to vacant properties to allow a more streamlined approach to marketing. As a result and as a way to reach out to Pittsburgh Catholic readers, an advertisement on Page 7 lists the properties that are currently available.

The diocese is serving as the facilitator in these sales. Monies realized on the sale of parish-owned buildings go to the parishes themselves.

Since 2003, more than 130 church properties have been sold, while others have been leased or demolished, according to Jim Zielinski, director of the Office for Property Planning and Development.

There are restrictions on the use of the properties, especially for church buildings, Zielinski said.

"If it's simply vacant property, we would have little control or interest in the use of the property by the buyer," he said. "If a group or individual is interested in one of the buildings, especially a church building, the diocese will need to know the intended use, background of the group or individual, things of that nature."

Interested parties are advised to call 412-471-8931 or e-mail There will be additional advertisements in the Pittsburgh Catholic as properties are sold and more become available.

This concerted sales effort with the diocese serving as a central location to field inquiries from potential buyers was discussed with and supported by the diocesan Priest Council and College of Consultors.

Signs have already been posted on each of the vacant land sites, and the diocese has received numerous inquiries.

Handling the marketing of the unused buildings this way helps the pastors who may be inundated with inquiries. This permits the buyers to have a convenient way to make their initial queries. The diocese will gather all of the pertinent information and then approach the pastors.

"The desire is to deal with the vacant properties in an expeditious but sensitive manner," said Michael Arnold, chief facilities officer for the diocese. "We understand the emotion that surrounds church buildings, but the reality is that these unused facilities are a financial burden for the parish. Insurance, utilities and maintenance costs add up and may preclude a parish from being able to offer ministries that are essential in keeping the Church Alive.

"In some cases the utilities are turned off so the parish can save money. However, the asset begins to lose value because the building begins to deteriorate," he said. "Therefore, timing is an important factor. Church buildings can also be a challenge to sell because the design is very specific and in some cases can be difficult to adapt to an alternative use."

The diocese hopes that this new marketing effort will help address this challenge and relieve the parishes of the burden created by surplus buildings.


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