US Archdiocese and Cathedral Sell Properties for Carbon Neutral Project

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As part of the deal with Westbank, the historic Connolly House will be preserved, with development around it

This rendering shows the location of future high-rise buildings on properties purchased from the Archdiocese of Seattle and St. James Cathedral. (Photo: Archdiocese of Seattle)

Published: 08 April 2022 05:59 GMT

Updated: April 08, 2022 06:08 GMT

Four properties owned by the Archdiocese of Seattle and St. James Cathedral, including chancery offices, are being sold to developer Westbank to create a carbon-neutral community in Seattle’s First Hill district.

“Thinking creatively about how we can best use our properties to accomplish the mission of the church is exactly what we need to do as good stewards of God’s gifts,” Bishop Paul D. Etienne said in a statement. March 29 press release announcing the sale.

“This important project is an investment in the First Hill community and in our future, ensuring that we can continue the good work of the Catholic Church,” he said.


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The sales are an example of the Archdiocese’s Catholic Real Estate Initiative, announced last November, which focuses on redeveloping underutilized church buildings and land so that resources and energy can be directed towards the mission of the church.

The four properties sold to Westbank are the center for pastoral outreach to St. James’s Cathedral, but not the cathedral itself; two buildings housing the offices of the chancellery; and the Connolly House, once home to the Archbishops of Seattle.

Westbank, a global developer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is recognized for its long-term commitment to sustainable construction. It plans to redevelop these properties over the next decade, creating a series of high-rise residential buildings with more than 1,300 homes that will be connected to a new, environmentally friendly district energy system that significantly reduces emissions. of greenhouse gases.

“We believe this project not only demonstrates the environmental values ​​outlined in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, but also represents a strong commitment to the future of the First Hill neighborhood.”

As part of the agreement with Westbank, the historic Connolly House will be preserved, with developments around it.

The district energy system, using excess waste heat from the Swedish Health Services First Hill Campus, is being developed by Westbank subsidiary Creative Energy.

“We believe that this project not only demonstrates the environmental values ​​described in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ but also represents a strong commitment to the future of the First Hill neighborhood,” said a letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese signed by Archbishop Etienne, Father Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, and Joe Schick, Chief Financial Officer of the Archdiocese.

Proceeds from the sale of the four aging buildings, which are expensive to maintain, will bring added stability to the local church “so that we can continue to share Christ with others through outreach, evangelism and key ministries,” the letter reads.

The archdiocese has not released sale prices for its properties, noting that market valuations determine the initial sale price, while the final price is subject to change, depending on approved project plans.

Westbank founder Ian Gillespie said the company’s initiative “will create low-carbon housing, infrastructure and amenities that will serve Seattle for generations to come.”

The project will also generate about $25 million for a Seattle municipal housing fund for organizations like Catholic Housing Services that build low-income and workforce housing, the archdiocese said. .

The archdiocese is exploring several options, including staying on First Hill, for a location where it can consolidate its 125 staff, who are now spread across four buildings. A decision is expected in early 2023, but a move is not expected until at least 2025, the archdiocese said.

The Archdiocese will also sell two properties to St. James’s Cathedral: one that now houses the Office of Catholic Schools and other Archdiocesan offices, and the top two floors of Cathedral Place; St. James already uses the first two floors.

As part of the project, Swedish will be able to divert excess heat from its campus to an energy-sharing platform that will become a heating source for other buildings connected to the platform.

In a letter to parishioners, Father Ryan said part of the proceeds from the sale of the neighborhood where the pastoral outreach center is located will be used to buy the two properties of the archdiocese – an acquisition of offices, space of gathering and parking which “more than compensate for the loss of the Center for Pastoral Outreach,” he said.

In addition to providing space for the parish to expand its offerings, the sale and acquisition “will provide a much-needed ‘nest egg’ to ensure the continuation of our ministries of outreach, faith formation, music and education. ‘arts,” Father Ryan said. The sale will also provide funds to maintain and preserve the parish’s historic buildings – the cathedral, presbytery and cathedral square, he said.

The district’s energy plan kicked off in 2021, when it was announced that Westbank and Creative Energy were partnering with Swedish Health Services, a subsidiary of the Catholic Providence Health organization, to upgrade infrastructure at its First Hill campus. .

As part of the project, Swedish will be able to divert excess heat from its campus to an energy-sharing platform that will become a heating source for other buildings connected to the platform.

The project, which Westbank’s Gillespie says will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the First Hill district, is part of Swedish and Providence’s pledge to be carbon negative by 2030.

In addition to the environmental benefits of the project, Father Ryan noted in his letter that Westbank also valued the importance of the cathedral, seeing it “not merely as the crowning glory of the first hill of yore, but as the heart of the first hill of I like the idea that the development of the neighborhood will not detract from the presence of the cathedral, but will emphasize and enhance it,” added Father Ryan.

In their joint letter, the Archbishop, Fr. Ryan and Schick thanked everyone who helped “bring the Catholic housing initiative on First Hill to life. … We feel very fortunate to be a part of this exciting development and very grateful for the hope this brings for the future of First Hill and for the Catholic presence in our town.”

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