Saturday, February 15, 2014

LDS Church To Build Chapel And 32-Story Apartment Tower At Philadelphia's Logan Square

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced its intention to construct both a meetinghouse and a 32-story apartment building on a vacant lot next to the Vine Street Expressway, which will effectively fill in the "no-man's land" that has long separated Center City and North Philadelphia's rebounding neighborhoods. This is quite similar to the Church's strategy in constructing the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City; neighborhood renovation and beautification. KSL Channel 5 has published a story, but here are three more informative sources from Philadelphia:

-- Philadelphia Inquirer, "Mormons to build 32-story tower near Center City"

-- Philadelphia Inquirer, "Two churches, different financial trajectories": This story compares Mormon and Catholic investments in the area.

-- Philadelphia Business Journal, "New 32-story residential tower coming to Logan Square"

The 360-foot tall tower, to be constructed in the area of 16th and Vine Streets, will contain 258 apartments, 13 townhouses, and a number of retail shops. The residences are expected to rent at market prices, but tenants need not be Mormons to rent an apartment or townhouse in the development. The church will not receive city or state money for the project, and no tithing funds will be used to pay for it. Although the for-profit residential tower will be subject to city taxes, mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said it will be eligible for the city's 10-year tax abatement for new development. While the LDS Church has not yet disclosed the expected costs, estimates from real estate agents and architects range from $75 million to as much as $120 million. The residential development is being built by Property Reserve Inc., which is affiliated with the Church.

The adjacent meetinghouse will have a chapel, courtyard, multipurpose space, and a center to research genealogy, according to Michael Marcheschi, senior real estate manager for the Church's national special projects department. Both will effectively complement the new $70 million temple under construction at 17th and Vine; completion is slated for 2016. There will also be a new tree-lined privately-owned public street that will connect Vine Street to Wood Street, similar to what the LDS Church did to Main Street in Salt Lake City.

No date has been set for groundbreaking, but construction is projected to last from 18 months to two years, and create as many as 1,800 jobs. This will become one of 50 major projects currently underway in the city, which shows that, despite unfavorable publicity Philadelphia has received over flash mobs of marauding youth invading the downtown area to commit assaults and robberies, Philadelphia's future may be brighter than first meets the eye.

Why does the LDS Church build malls and apartment complexes, and get involved in other for-profit businesses? Asked for information about the LDS Church's businesses, a spokesman for AgReserves Inc., a for-profit affiliate of the church, sent an Internet link to a July 2012 document on Church finances. This is what the article said about farmland holdings, which are not limited to Florida:

"The church's business assets support the church's mission and principles by serving as a rainy-day fund. Agricultural holdings now operated as for-profit enterprises can be converted into welfare farms in the event of a global food crisis."

Note the phrase "rainy-day fund". If a full-blown economic depression was to overtake the United States, the Church could use revenues obtained from the rentals of these apartment buildings and malls to help a larger number of people survive a depression. In addition, by constructing these complexes in seedy downtown areas, the Church is actually giving back to the community -- they are engaging in neighborhood beautification on a large scale, no different in purpose than when we don the yellow Helping Hands jerseys and clean up our local parks and neighborhoods. And Armand Mauss, a scholar who has studied modern Mormonism, characterized the plan as part of the Church's effort to expand its presence in inner-city areas. "I think that large buildings like this are intended by the church to make a statement that they want to have a greater presence in the inner city, where they can provide service and help and support to populations that have not heretofore been typical Mormon recruits", opined Mauss.

Unofficial LDS Reaction: This announcement has triggered some debate among Mormons on LDS Freedom Forum and Bare Record, with many questioning why the LDS Church isn't spending the money to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, etc, etc, despite the fact that we already do that. Some are even comparing it to the "great and spacious building" in the Book of Mormon. But here were some good responses published on LDSFF:

samizdat Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:40 am:
Philadelphia isn't necessarily Alpine or Highland, Jo. There are many places there that are dirt-poor and it has been decaying.

Has no one figured out that we are in the last days?

The Church is going to need that building some day, to house refugees. Especially since some cities north of Philly are gonna get hammered if John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff are to be believed.

samizdat Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:40 pm:
My comment regarding the Philly complex stands on the basis on that sometimes we don't see as far enough as the General Authorities when they plan these things.

That is why I mentioned perhaps places for refugees in the last days. the Seventh Seal series planted that hypothesis. Though it might not be for you guys that like to murmur at everything the Church does, it is a quite plausible hypothesis.

Not to mention that these zones have been creating jobs in an otherwise down economy.

The Church owns land down here in Mexico, that is easily expandable in the case of need. Apartments have been going up near the Mexico City Temple too as well as in the Benemerito complex that is now the new Mexico MTC. Would not be surprised to see construction projects going on at the Guarda facility, ostensibly for expanding the campgrounds for the youth in the burgeoning Mexico and Puebla areas (over 50 stakes between them).

The Church just dedicated a campground similar to Guarda in the Dominican Republic close to Santo Domingo, where there is a temple.

I understand that in the UK the Church also has plenty of land.

And though I cannot confirm, I would not be surprised to see the Church doing similar projects up and down Latin America like what is currently being done in Mexico, in Utah east of the population centers, in Adam-Ondi Ahman, as well as other ventures.

There are many things going behind the curtain, that we don't recognize right away, but we see the results shortly down the road.

I would think twice before murmuring over these acquisitions.

Craig Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:03 pm:
I support this endeavor raising visibility of the church in a much needed area and securing the future financial stability of the church. Since we're not privy to all the details it would be impossible to make a sound determination on whether the money is being well spent. I trust in the church and it's Apostles to wisely choose long-term financial investments. I don't see any other church denomination in the United States consistently involved charitable works from assisting members being hit by a tough economy, provisioning Bishop Storehouses or responding to natural disasters. What a blessing we have as members of the faith knowing we have a church that will sustain our earthly needs in times of trouble.


Bruce Day said...

Why does this site have ads, and get involved in For-profit ventures????????

Anonymous said...

The church today is just doing what Joseph smith did except with a bigger bankroll and a more conservative approach. Joseph built banks and commercial buildings. Had Joseph been alive I am sure he would have been at the ribbon cutting ceremony doing the countdown and yelling "Let's go shopping". I am sure his 33 wives would of love the idea of a mall too, most women go shopping. Joseph smith was a pretty liberal guy, who knows what kind of shenanigans he be up to if he was still leading the church today.