The interior of The Sanctuary, a 30-unit condo conversion of Washington, DC’s Way of the Cross church.

As Washington, D.C.’s property values rise and its one-time residents move to the suburbs, the city’s dwindling or otherwise troubled religious congregations are increasingly putting their churches on the market and moving closer to their members. Some of these churches end up demolished – but many developers have been buying vacant churches, restoring them, and converting them for new uses, usually as condominiums.

While the visual effect of an old church is striking, particularly if its stained glass is preserved, developers have many considerations to cover in order to make the project work, as developer David Rubin explains. The interior must be reworked, unsolved or badly repaired maintenance issues must be solved, and strong community opposition may come to the fore. Developers must also respect the building’s past as a house of worship, according to architect Ben Heimsath, and interact in a constructive manner with its congregation.

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