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Apartments to Replace 146-Year-Old Brooklyn Church

By Camille Bautista | February 17, 2015 2:29pm | Updated on February 17, 2015 4:53pm
 The 146-year-old St. Stephen and St. Martin's Episcopal Church will be replaced with an apartment building.The church is partnering with an investor to build a new space after members were unable to afford upkeep of the structure.
The 146-year-old St. Stephen and St. Martin's Episcopal Church will be replaced with an apartment building.The church is partnering with an investor to build a new space after members were unable to afford upkeep of the structure.
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Facebook/St. Stephen and St. Martin's Episcopal Church

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A 146-year-old Bed-Stuy church is being demolished to make room for “middle-income” apartments, according to investors.

St. Stephen and St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Jefferson Avenue is set to be pulled down by the end of February due to a lack of funds needed to preserve the wooden building.

Audley Donaldson, the church's rector, sold the lot to Notias Construction. He made a agreement with the company that a replacement church will be part of the development.

“We’re excited,” Donaldson said. “We believe it’s an exciting model for the faith-based community to partner with non-faith-based organizations.”

Worsening conditions at the church, including a leaking roof, prompted Donaldson and other members to seek ways to restore the building.

“At one point we ended up propping the structure with four beams for the better part of 20 years,” Donaldson said.

“The church had gotten to the point where it was unsafe and it was not cost-effective to maintain. There was nothing we could do to save it.”

The parish had long known the building would have to come down, he said, but there was not enough financial support to build a new space.

Enter Notias, which Donaldson said gives hope to small churches through a “partnership model.”

The company will replace St. Stephen and St. Martin's former location at 809 Jefferson Ave. with a 41-unit apartment building, but the 200-member congregation is expected to have a new home one door over at 807 Jefferson.

Donaldson said he wanted to avoid a fate similar to dozens of historic churches throughout Brooklyn that have been converted or demolished for residential use in the past two decades. 

“It is possible for investors to work with churches,” Donaldson said. “Sure, we could have waited longer to make a deal, but Bed-Stuy is growing so fast and properties are appreciating so fast that the more you talk, the more costs rise. We saw great opportunity and we jumped on it.”

The new apartment building will have “rent in line with what people can afford in the surrounding neighborhood,” according to Notias representative Pierre Downing, who confirmed the deal.

Units will cater to the middle-income household workforce, he added. The apartments will serve those who make up to 120 percent of the area median income, which is an annual income of $70,560 for individuals, according to city figures. 

The complex and the new church are expected to be done within the next two years. The church’s total cost is estimated at more than $1 million, Donaldson said.

Interior demolition at the 146-year-old building began in January with removal of the stained glass windows and pews. In the meantime, members of St. Stephen and St. Martin's Episcopal are sharing a space with Varick Memorial AME Zion Church on Quincy Street.