Condo conversion: Bellevue church attracts suburban buyers
The resurrection of the second Catholic parish in Bellevue, Kentucky, has turned one defunct but architecturally stunning space into five fast-selling condominiums.
The history of the St. Anthony Lofts on Poplar Street dates back to 1889, when the church first opened. More than 100 years later, in 2003, St. Anthony Church held its last mass. In 2009, Ashley Commercial Group took a chance on transforming the space into five condos. Units were ready for occupancy this September.
Condo layouts highlight the history of the building. Living spaces include original stained glass, 50-foot vaulted ceilings with original tresses and choirboy’s robe lockers transformed into bookshelves.
A combination of a prime location and unparalleled architectural details have helped the lofts’ sales record so far. Priced in the mid $200,000s, three of the condos are sold and Lisa Dunhouse, Realtor for Comey & Shepherd, and has gotten much more interest in the remaining two condos after she had a photographer come in.
“This is a very unique creature,” Dunhouse says. “We have a couple different things going for us. The community in Bellevue is very active and the condos are a great value.”
The price per square foot is on the low end of condo prices, but offers a high-end finished quality. Dunhouse has been working on the St. Anthony Lofts since its inception two years ago and had to make two presales to secure funding for the condos to be finished. This had to be done with only an empty church and virtual renderings.
Dan Kroger, an optometrist with his own practice in West Chester, purchased the first condo. Kroger had been looking for condos nearer to downtown Cincinnati and places like the Aronoff Theatre. He first visited St. Anthony when it was still a vacant church with no dividing walls plenty of room for renovation. Still, Kroger had faith the space would be transformed into the home of his dreams.
To make the sale happen, Kroger had to sell his single-family home in West Chester in a bad market and move away from his office. He now has a 30-minute commute to work each day. He says it is a small price to pay to be close to an energetic city. “I found myself driving downtown more often that I stayed in West Chester,” Kroger says. “It seemed like the right move to be closer to downtown.”
Friends and family questioned his decision, but after seeing his new space in Bellevue, they quickly changed their tunes.
“People ask me to show them pictures,” Kroger says. “I do, but it doesn’t do it justice.”
As the first buyer, he got first pick of the entire building. He chose the back of the church, where the altar and stage used to be. Massive stained glass windows of Jesus, Mary and priests let light in; the confessional light notifies people the bathroom is occupied; the hanging lights are adorned with crosses; and the old church safe is now a wine rack.
The mixing of contemporary loft design with the uncommon opportunity of living in an old church appealed to the Ashley Commercial Group. “It seemed like the best use for the area,” says Bill Kreutzjans, partner at ACG. “Several of the partners thought it would be a good use of the building.”
Roger Martin, another St. Anthony Loft owner, had been looking for a downtown living space despite his job in Fairfield. He first saw an ad online for the St. Anthony Lofts after his Liberty Township house was already up for sale. “I was looking to downsize from a home,” he says. “I was over the whole thing, and I wanted to be in a more urban setting near downtown Cincinnati.”
Martin had toured spaces in the OTR’s Gateway District, downtown and in Covington, but nothing clicked until he saw the St. Anthony Lofts. As an assistant superintendant for the Fairfield City School District, Martin, like Kroger, didn’t mind the reverse commute. It’s a small price to pay for proximity to downtown entertainment and restaurants, as well as sports stadia and parks.
“I like the diversity that downtown offers,” Martin says. “I hoped I would be in walking distance to Great American Ball Park. I don’t know if I can quite walk there, but it’s still close.”
That walkability and accesibility is one of the selling points Dunhouse has used all along.
“It’s very walkable,” Dunhouse says. “That seems to be something people that are moving from the suburbs are looking for.”
By Evan Wallis (Follow him on Twitter
Photos by Scott Beseler