PHILADELPHIA — The First African Baptist Church, which has been an anchor in the Graduate Hospital community of South Philadelphia since 1906, has sold its properties for $2.05 million.

The church and its ancillary parcels at the addresses of 1606 Christian St., 1608 Christian St. and 1609-19 Montrose St. were sold to a local development group that has been involved in other Philadelphia projects, according to Ken Mallin of MPN Realty, who arranged the transaction. The buyer was undisclosed and is not HOW Properties, which had been interested in buying the property.

The property was part of a preservation battle in which some of the church’s members sought to thwart a sale and have it continue on as a house of worship.

The pastor of the church, The Rev. Terrence Griffith, had concluded the property deteriorated to the point where it was no longer safe, according to published reports, which also said the church could no longer afford to financially support the property and sought to sell it.

Prospective buyers had intended to demolish the structure to make way for a multi-family project but that was met with resistance.

The building was constructed 110 years ago and the Philadelphia Historical Commission, against Griffith’s objections, placed the property on its register of historic places last fall. In light of that, the developer will have to preserve the structures.

While the church could be a candidate for a residential conversion, an adjacent surface parking lot is ripe for new, ground-up construction.

For now, the developer has not yet finalized any plans and is now mostly focused on fixing the structural issues, Mallin said.

The Graduate Hospital neighborhood has been undergoing a rapid transformation with new development activity as well adaptive re-use of projects and is among one of the city’s hottest areas.

Natalie Kostelni, Reporter
Philadelphia Business Journal

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